15 arrested on Al-Qaeda links allegations [Archives:2007/1066/Front Page]

July 9 2007
Spanish foreign minister congratulates one of the Spanish tourists on her survival.
Spanish foreign minister congratulates one of the Spanish tourists on her survival.
Raidan Al-Saqqaf
MARIB, July 8 ) Among conflicting reports, Yemeni security tightens its investigation of the Marib attack on tourists last week, which has had a substantial negative impact on tourism and security.

As part of an Al-Qaeda hunt down, police forces killed an Egyptian citizen Ahmed Basyouni last Friday who was allegedly a member of Al-Qaeda and had links to the terrorist attack in Yemen which killed seven Spaniards last week. Eyewitness accounts indicate that Basyouni refused to surrender himself and started firing at the squad who were demanding his surrender. The exchange of fire lasted over two hours and resulted in the injury of two soldiers and the killing of Basyouni, ruining security forces' chances of extracting any information from him.

Another fifteen men were detained for interrogation. Authorities commented that they are getting important information from the preliminary investigation. President Saleh has offered a reward of approximately $76,000 for any information related to the attack.

Security issues

The attack on the Spaniards has brought a number of security issues into focus, such as regulating the trade and ownership of weapons and providing genuine solutions to the problems of extremism. A number of political analysts have specified the enrollment of extremists within security agencies following 1994 as the most undermining issue, which facilitates the work of terrorism. This connection was made during an investigation into the escape of 24 Al-Qaeda members from a political security prison last year. The assassination of Marib's chief inspector two months ago has been linked to last week's terrorism attack, indicating the possibility that the killed chief inspector knew about Al-Qaeda's resurgence and preparations for such an attack.

Reports from local media stated that the security personnel in Marib had received a report from the citizens claiming that they saw a suspicious vehicle similar to the type used in the recent attack. Apparently the vehicle, a pick-up truck, was carrying rotten hay. The eyewitness said the car was parked in close proximity to the accident. He also commented that the truck was moving in slow motion as if carrying very heavy load and was met with another car that had three passengers who left after a brief talk with the pick-up driver.

A survivors' tale

A survivor of the suicide car bombing told Spanish Radio Onda Cero that the scene of the attack was one of absolute terror. Maria Begona Larrabeiti who was a passenger in the third vehicle of the convoy said: “I saw that the first car was burning, in the second one the people looked pretty bad, and in mine everyone was shouting She also added: “Then I couldn't see what was happening in the fourth as I ducked because they were shooting it was an absolute nightmare.”

Larrabeiti was one of the 13 Spaniards who had come to Yemen as tourists on June 30. Many European tourists had been visiting the country recently, however the incident will make many of them think twice before venturing to Yemen.

The bodies of the dead tourists accompanied by the survivors were flown back home last week on a Spanish Armed Forces plane. As a consequence of this attack, the Yemeni security has heightened security measures around foreign embassies and government buildings. Tight security is also noticed in the airports and city-to-city entry points, which might explain the presence of 15 Spanish tourists in Yemen just a couple of days ago, so close after the recent attack.