Yemen’s top al-Qaeda in custodyU.S. pressures Yemen on al-Ahdal [Archives:2003/691/Front Page]

December 4 2003

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
A Western diplomat in Sana'a said the U.S. is putting pressure on Yemen to allow American F.B.I. investigators to interrogate Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, alias Abu Assem al-Makki, who was arrested in Sana'a last Tuesday along with other four men.
Al-Ahdal, who is on the U.S. list of wanted terrorists in Yemen, is believed to be one of the masterminds of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbor, which killed 17 U.S. sailors, and the 2002 bombing of the French oil tanker Limburg off the Yemeni coast.
He is reported to have replaced Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi after he was killed by a missile fired from a U.S. drone aircraft November last year. Al-Ahdal is also described as the main coordinator of al-Qaeda activities in Yemen, supervising the terror group's finances, weapons smuggling and operational planning and was well-connected to other extremists in Persian Gulf countries, according to official sources.
However, Yemen's government refuses to allow U.S. investigators to question al-Ahdal, or any other terrorism-linked detainees directly, and suggests that the US investigators can hand over their questions in writing to al-Ahdal through their Yemeni counterparts.
Yemen hopes to glean crucial information about al Qaeda operations inside and outside the country from al-Ahdal.
“This is an important arrest because the information we may uncover could lead to elements or networks even outside Yemen,” the Yemeni official said after the arrest was made, when the senior al-Qaeda leader was celebrating his own wedding party in his hide-out west of Sana'a.
Yemen also confirmed that al-Ahdal will not be handed over to the U.S.
He “will not be handed over to any other authority and would be interrogated and tried in Yemen,” Yemeni Information Minister Hussein al-Awaddi said Friday.
Yemen's government also dismissed apress report published by the London-based Asharq al-Awsat daily, quoting an unnamed American source as accusing Yemen of undermining its cooperation in the global war on terror and that its defense ministry was smuggling US weapons to Saudi militants.
The report is “aimed to mislead world opinion over Yemen's serious and decisive position in fighting terror and undermining the growing relations between Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United States,” an interior ministry official said Friday, adding that “Yemen will not succumb to any form of blackmail irrespective of its nature and source.”
Asharq al-Awsat quoted the unidentified source as saying that Saudi Arabia denied that Yemen did not hand over to it four wanted al-Qaeda militants.
But the interior ministry official said that the Saudi authorities have not denied this fact, pointing out that ten Saudi men were arrested after entering the country illegally and that they were turned over to the Saudi authorities in coordination with the Saudi embassy in Sana'a.