Sanaa Seeks to Bring Home up to 500 Yemeni Fighters from Afghanistan [Archives:2001/52/Local News]

December 24 2001

SANAA, Dec 13 (AFP) – Yemen is working to bring home 400-500 men who went to Afghanistan to join Osama bin Laden or the Taliban, President Ali Abdullah Saleh was quoted as saying in Thursday’s official press.
The Sanaa government “is currently negotiating the repatriation of Yemeni nationals with the international alliance and Pakistan,” Saleh said.
An unnamed official was quoted as adding: “They will be brought to justice to answer for any links with Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or involvement in terrorist acts.”
Investigations into the Yemeni fighters would also cover their possible roles in attacks on the US embassies in East Africa in 1998, the October 2000 blowing up of the US destroyer Cole in Aden and the September 11 terror attacks on the United States, the official said.
Saudi-born Bin Laden, whose family has its roots in Yemen, is accused by Washington of being behind all the attacks.
Saleh, who met President George W. Bush at the White House at the end of November, expressed fears that Yemen could be a target of the US anti-terror war.
“Some people criticized my visit to the United States, but I went there to avoid any danger to our country,” he said.
“There were reports putting forward Yemen as a second Afghanistan,” he said in an address to religious leaders.
Saleh, in a comment apparently aimed at placating the religious figures, deplored that the “mujahedin” who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the request of the United States … are now repudiated as terrorists.”
On December 2, Saleh said Sanaa and Washington had agreed to arrest two or three people in Yemen suspected of belonging to bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.
“They will be arrested … because they are believed to be members of the al-Qaeda network” according to US information, he said.
Saleh, however denied that the suspects had links with the suicide bomb attack on the USS Cole which left 17 US sailors dead.
Dozens of Yemenis suspected of having links with bin Laden were arrested after September 11.