Yemen kills militants it says threatened embassies

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Yemeni forces yesterday killed at least two al-Qa'ida militants they said were behind a threat that forced the US and European embassies to close, as concern grew about the poor Arab country's stability.

The raid took place after the attempted bombing of a US-bound plane on Christmas Day thrust Yemen into the foreground of the US-led war against Islamist militants.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said fighting in Yemen was a threat to regional and global stability.

"We see global implications from the war in Yemen and the ongoing efforts by al-Qa'ida in Yemen to use it as a base for terrorist attacks far beyond the region," she said.

The West and Saudi Arabia fear al-Qa'ida will take advantage of Yemen's instability to spread its operations to the neighbouring kingdom, the world's biggest oil exporter, and beyond. Yemen itself produces a small amount of oil.

A Yemeni security official told Reuters militants targeted in yesterday's raid were behind the threats to the US embassy.

"Security authorities had been monitoring them for several days and struck today," he said.

Agents were hunting Mohammed al-Haniq, a local al-Qa'ida leader, but he was able to get away, state media reported.

The US embassy in Sanaa stayed shut for a second day in response to what it said was al-Qa'ida threats. Britain's embassy has also been closed since Sunday.

Clinton said a decision on reopening the US embassy would be taken "as conditions permit".