Yemen arrests 30 in al-Qa'ida hunt

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The Independent Online

Security forces in Yemen's port of Aden have arrested 30 people during a two day hunt for suspected al-Qa'ida operatives behind an attack on an intelligence building, a security official and the Defence Ministry said.

Operations would continue after security forces swept door-to-door through Aden's Saada area yesterday seeking out suspected militants, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Yemen has accused al-Qa'ida of the attack last Saturday in which militants in military uniform raided the police intelligence building, killing seven security officers, three women and a 7-year-old boy, and freeing several detainees.

The security official said clashes had broken out before dawn yesterday. Police rounded up 30 suspects throughout the day, nine of whom were charged with al-Qa'ida links, while the rest were charged with participating in rioting.

One detainee died. Security officials said the man died from an asthma attack, while opposition website Sahwa Net said he died from wounds after being tortured.

The Defence Ministry said security forces had received information from a previously-detained al-Qa'ida operative, Ghodel Mohammed Saleh Naji, that those responsible for last week's attack would be holding a Friday meeting.

All participants in the meeting were held, the Defence Ministry statement said. Authorities said earlier they had arrested the head of the group behind the assault.

Yemen, neighbour to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has been a growing security concern for the West since the Yemen-based arm of al-Qa'ida claimed responsibility for an unsuccessful attempt to set off a bomb on board a US-bound airliner in December.

Yemen is struggling to curb a separatist movement in the south and cement a ceasefire with Shi'ite rebels in the north. It is under international pressure to quell domestic conflicts to focus on a growing al Qaeda presence in the country.

A day before last Saturday's attack, al-Qa'ida's Yemen-based regional branch threatened to respond to a state crackdown against it in eastern Yemen, calling on local tribesmen to take up arms against the government.