Possible terrorist threats to Yemen [Archives:2004/768/Front Page]

August 30 2004

Last week, a Yemeni security source said that the government received information that foreign terrorist groups are preparing to carry out attacks at the country's ports.
“The government received information confirming the intention of terrorist groups abroad that are planning terrorist acts on Yemen's sea ports,” the source told Reuters last Wednesday.
The security source added that security forces have been put on a high state of alert and instructed to increase patrols in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, including boosting security around oil installations.
“The Interior Ministry has issued instructions for security forces at coasts to take strict precautionary measures in the face of any terrorists infiltrating from the sea,” said the source.
But last Friday, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi denied reports that Yemen had received information of terrorist threats aimed at the country's ports.
When asked whether Yemeni authorities knew of any possible dates or locations of attacks, he said, “We do not have this information.”
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Al-Qirbi added that “We are continuously tracking suspicious activities in this area, looking for possible movements of terrorist groups.”
Terrorists bombed the USS Cole in October 2000 as it was refueling at the port of Aden. Seventeen US sailors were killed and 33 others were wounded during the attack. Militants also bombed the French oil tanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen near Mukalla two years later which left one crew member dead.
Yemeni authorities are said to have received information of the terrorist threats from foreign intelligence, but officials have not mentioned where the information came from. The reports of heightened alert came right after Lieutenant General Samuel Hailand, Commander of the US forces fighting terrorism in the African Horn, visited Yemen.
Six terrorist suspects are on trial charged with being involved in the bombing of the USS Cole. Fifteen others were convicted on Saturday of taking part in terrorist activities, including the attack on Limburg.
An analyst in Yemen said that the Yemeni government has made a substantial effort to improve national security.
“The Yemeni government has increased security a great deal in the last few years,” said the analyst. “You never know that you can thwart every attack, but if there are threats, the security forces will do a good job of preventing attacks.”
Security forces have rounded up hundreds of suspects, including key Al-Qaeda members, since Yemen joined the United States's fight on terrorism after the attacks in America on September 11th 2001. Last week, authorities arrested Yousef Al-Harazi, one of eight wanted suspects believed to be members of Al-Qaeda, during a raid by an anti-terrorism squad at an apartment in Sana'a, the capital.
Last April, the United States delivered seven gunboats to Yemen to help the newly established Yemen Coast Guard protect the country's coastline and ports. In July, the United States decided that its warships could refuel at the port of Aden due to improved security. US warships stopped arriving at the port after the bombing attack on USS Cole four years ago.
The analyst believes that since terrorism appears to be on the rise, terrorist threats will continue in a number of countries. “With the rise of terrorism happening in many parts of the world, it is as though the whole world is under threat,” said the analyst.
Russian authorities discovered that one of the two Russian planes that crashed last week was the result of terrorism. During investigations, officials said that explosives were found in the wreckage of one of the two planes which crashed almost simultaneously last Wednesday.
A recent report from a UN committee said that freezing assets linked to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan has been ineffective. It also said that winning the war on terror is not in sight.
“There is no prospect of an early end to attacks from Al-Qaeda,” said the report. “They will continue to attack in both Muslim and non-Muslim states, choosing them according to the resources they have available and the opportunities that occur.”
During clashes between Yemeni forces and armed supporters of Hussein Al-Houthi in north Yemen, which have lasted for over two months, terrorist groups have hinted at targeting Yemen. Early July, Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigade, a group linked to Al-Qaeda, said that it would “drag the United States into a third quagmire, that is, after Iraq and Afghanistan, and let it be in Yemen, God willing.” The group has claimed responsibility for attacks in Iraq, Turkey and the March 11th railway bombings in Madrid.
A month later, a little known Islamic group, Tawhid Wa Al-Hijra (Monotheism and Immigration), posted on its website support for Al-Houthi and condemned the Yemeni government because it “opened the country of Muslims to the crusader forces.”