DUBAI - Al-Qaida's Yemen branch has mocked tough new counter-terrorism measures adopted by neighbouring Saudi Arabia, saying they would not deter the Islamist group's fighters and that they proved the kingdom was in the pay of the United States.

In an online statement, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) also said Riyadh's designation of the Muslim Brotherhood - a group whose political wings have contested elections in several countries - as a terrorist organization proved that secular authorities would never tolerate Islamist groups.

AQAP, seen as one of the most dangerous al-Qaida branches after it plotted attacks on international airliners, is thought to have several hundred Saudi militants fighting alongside Yemeni counterparts against the government in Sanaa.

On Feb 3, Saudi Arabia announced tougher punishments for Saudis seeking to join Islamist militant groups abroad and on March 7 the interior ministry designated a number of groups, including the Brotherhood, as terrorist organizations.

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