7 Aug 2013

Yemen ‘foils al-Qaeda plot to seize oil and gas facilities’

A Yemeni government official says the authorities have foiled an al-Qaeda plot to capture oil and gas export facilities and a provincial capital in the eastern part of the country.

An army trooper sits beside a machinegun that is mounted on a patrol vehicle at at checkpoint in Sanaa (R)

Rajeh Badi, press advisor to Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa, said the plot involved using dozens of al-Qaeda militants dressed in Yemeni army uniforms to storm the facilities.

It was due to take place on the night of the 27th of Ramadan, which was on Sunday.

It’s the latest escalation in a seemingly increasingly unstable situation in Yemen. On Tuesday, US and British embassies evacuated staff because of fears of attacks.

US sources told Reuters that intercepted communication between bin Laden’s successor as al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, and the Yemen-based wing was one part of the intelligence behind the alert last week that prompted the closure of the embassies.

Global concern

Security in Yemen is a global concern. Home to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered one of the most aggressive branches of the global militant organisation, it shares a long border with Saudi Arabia, a US ally and the world’s top oil exporter.

Yemeni authorities issued a statement early on Tuesday listing 25 “most wanted terrorists” it said were planning to carry out attacks in the country during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday this week. They also offered five million Yemeni riyals ($23,000) for information leading to their capture.

The US government supports Yemeni forces with funds and logistical support and it is one of a handful of countries where Washington acknowledges targeting militants with strikes by drone aircraft, although it does not comment publicly on the practice.

On Wednesday, a US drone killed at least six suspected al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen. It was the fifth strike in less than two weeks and follows the warnings of potential attacks by militants.

At least 20 suspected militants have been killed since July 28, when a drone strike killed at least four members of Ansar al-Sharia, a local militant group affiliated to AQAP.