4 militants arrestedMopping up operations in Huttat continue [Archives:2003/647/Front Page]
Abyan, July 2 – Yemeni special counter terrorism forces are still mopping up the mountainous area of Huttat, 120 km north east of Aden governorate, hunting down for over 40 affiliates of the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army (AAIA) who fled after the government forces stormed the rugged area last week where some 80 militants were camping. Security sources said that 4 elements of the AAIA, Islamic Jihad, were arrested. He added that the four were among six people arrested in Sarar region, pointing out that two were found ordinary citizens and released. During the fierce battle with the militants, six militants were killed and other 11 arrested, according to an interior ministry official. A police officer was also killed and another five were wounded during the operation to track down the fugitives. The fate of the leader of the group, Khalid Abdu Nabbi, is still unknown although security officials said that he was killed and that his body was found among the killed. Some of the militants are Arab Afghans.
The military operation in which hundreds of soldiers used tanks, artillery, heavy machine guns, came after the militants attacked on June 21 a military medical convoy injuring a doctor, five aides and the driver. The government gave the attackers an ultimatum to surrender but to no avail.
Although military officials said that military operations were over last week, local sources said that the government troops backed with helicopters and other weapons continue to mop up the area searching for over 40 militants who escaped from the military operation area. Among the fugitives are some al-Qaeda suspects who escaped last April from the intelligence prison in Aden.
The ten-member team were charged with being involved in the suicide bombing of the USS Cole which killed 17 US sailors in Aden in October 12, 2000 Among the fugitives are Jamal al-Badwi and Fahd al-Kisa'e who were accused by the US FBI of being the masterminds of the Cole attack. Although some sources said that some of these fugitives were arrested during the Huttab mopping up operation, but the government officials did not confirm or deny the news. Some sources in Aden said that most of the fugitives are still at large. The mopping up operations went beyond Abyan to include some areas in Lahj where some of the militants are believed to hide. Reliable sources told Yemen Times that security measures have been intensified in Marib, Al-Jawf and Shabwa to prevent the escape to or from these areas where some al-Qaeda suspects are thought to hide. The government troops have been deployed to these areas to avoid any sort of harbor provided to such extremists by the tribes in these governorates.
Meanwhile, President Ali Abdullah Saleh confirmed during his visit to Paris that his government will continue fighting against terrorism until it is uprooted as it undermines security and stability of the country. Prime Minster, Abdul Qader Ba Jamal said that his government is “determined to continue chasing the elements of extremism and terrorism until this epidemic is completely eradicated.”
The government of Yemen announced earlier that the AAIA does not exist anymore after the execution of its leader Abu Baker al-Mihdar in 1999. Al-Mihdar was arrested and tried after he and his militants kidnapped on December 28, 1998 some foreign tourists. The conformation between the militants and the security forces led to the killing of some of the tourists. But, the appearance of the AAIA militants having a camp for extremists in Abyan shows that extremism and al-Qaeda still pose a great challenge for Yemeni government which it has to face in the coming future.