Al-Qa'ida suspect shot dead during Yemen raid

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Yemeni security forces killed a suspected militant who was on a government list of wanted al-Qa'ida figures, and arrested four others in a raid on a house in a remote mountain province, the region's governor said yesterday.

Elsewhere in Shabwa province, suspected al-Qa'ida fighters killed two members of the security forces and wounded four others in a dawn ambush, officials said. The gunmen attacked the patrol in Nakaba, south of the provincial capital of Ataq, the security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to talk to the press.

The violence comes as Yemen steps up its operations against al-Qa'ida with help from the US, which has increased funding and training of local security forces. Washington said an offshoot of al-Qa'ida that is based in the Arabian Peninsula has become a global threat after it allegedly plotted to blow up a US passenger jet on Christmas Day.

Shabwa province is one of several where hundreds of al-Qa'ida fighters are thought to have gained refuge, some protected by tribes disenchanted with the central government.

Shabwa's governor, Ali Ahmadi, said the militant killed on Tuesday night was Abdullah Mihzar, a native of the province who was on a government list of wanted al-Qa'ida figures.

Security forces surrounded the house in the Maysaa region, about 230 miles south-east of the capital, San'aa, and exchanged fire with about 20 militants inside, local officials said. During the fighting, Mihzar was killed and four others were arrested, but the rest escaped.

In a sign of the tensions present in the region, the tribal chief of the Maysaa area complained that Mihzar and the others were not "active members" of al-Qa'ida. He also warned that the use of force in tribal regions could spark a backlash.

"They were young men who went astray but I don't think they were really members of al-Qa'ida," Sheik Atiq Baadha told The Associated Press. "The authorities should have contacted the families and local leaders so we could hand them over... We're ready to talk to the government about this.

"If things continue like this, other tribes might become sympathetic with these people," he added.

The San'aa government has little control over Shabwa, as well as large swaths of Yemen. Powerful, well-armed tribes dominate extensive areas and bitterly resent intrusion by security forces. Young Yemenis who join al-Qa'ida – or are simply swayed by Islamic extremist ideology – often get support from their fellow tribesmen.