Yemen: Al-Qaida targeted oil, gas facilities as well as eastern city

Yemeni security forces claim to have foiled a plot by al-Qaida after US broadened worldwide travel warning.

By REUTERS
August 7, 2013 23:31
2 minute read.
Soldiers in Yemen

Soldiers in Yemen 370 (R). (photo credit: Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi / Reuters)

Yemeni security forces claim to have foiled a plot by al-Qaida to take over oil and gas export facilities, as well as a small city nearby in the country’s east.

The office of Yemen’s prime minister said the plan would have seen “dozens” of al-Qaida terrorists disguised in official army uniforms taking the facilities by surprise in a night raid that was scheduled for last Sunday, when the US originally broadened its worldwide travel warning.

“The plot aimed to seize the al-Dabbah oil export terminal in Hadramout [province] and the Belhaf gas export facility, as well as the city of Mukalla,” Rajeh Badi, press advisor to the prime minister, told Reuters, referring to the Hadramout provincial capital.

Badi said the plot was prevented by deploying extra troops around the targeted facilities and banning anyone from entering.

The State Department travel warning, which led to the closure of 19 diplomatic facilities across the Middle East this week, was reinforced in Yemen on Tuesday when the US and the UK airlifted all official personnel from the country and called on their citizens to leave “immediately.”

Washington justified the move, citing intelligence that pointed to a “specific, immediate threat” with an “extremely high” threat level. But officials have not clarified whether the threat outlined by the Yemeni government characterizes the extent of the threat stream that led to the region-wide closures.

The US is preparing special forces for possible operations in Yemen against al- Qaida, according to a report by the BBC on Wednesday, which also said that heightened security measures were visible in Sanaa, the capital.

The closures spanned from Libya to Kuwait and included Tel Aviv, which officials say stemmed from fears that al-Qaida in Sinai had coordinated with the plan.

A report from the US online news source The Daily Beast claimed the US had intercepted a conference call including over 20 al-Qaida operatives around the region.

“All you need to do is look at that list of places we shut down to get a sense of who was on the phone call,” the article quoted a US official as saying.

An American drone killed at least six suspected al-Qaida terrorists in southern Yemen on Wednesday. The strikes also destroyed two vehicles in the town of Nasab.

It was the fifth strike in less than two weeks.

Witnesses and local officials in the province of Shabwa said the drone fired at least six missiles at two vehicles in a remote area some 70 km. north of the provincial capital, Ataq. Both vehicles were destroyed.

Residents who rushed to the scene found only charred bodies, they said.

Yemen demonstrated its frustration with countries that have decided to evacuate their embassies, saying it only served the interests of the terrorists, according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.

“While the government of Yemen appreciates foreign governments’ concern for the safety of their citizens, the evacuation of embassy staff serves the interests of the extremists and undermines the exceptional cooperation between Yemen and the international alliance against terrorism,” the statement read.

Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.


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