Yemen says ‘Israel-linked’ terror cell dismantled
SANAA (AFP) — Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced on Monday the dismantling of a “terrorist cell” which he said was linked to Israeli intelligence services.
Saleh gave no details but sources close to the investigation said he was apparently referring to a six-member cell arrested on suspicion of involvement in a deadly attack against the US embassy in the Yemeni capital last month.
“A terrorist cell was arrested five days ago and will be referred to the judicial authorities for its links with the Israeli intelligence services,” Saleh was quoted as saying by the official Saba news agency.
He said the group operated under the “slogan of Islam.”
The Yemeni president made the statement during a meeting with politicians, tribal leaders, security and military officials at Al-Mukalla University in the southeastern province of Hadramawt.
Saleh did not say how many people were arrested or detail his allegation that the cell was linked to Israeli intelligence.
“Details of the trial will be announced later,” he told the gathering.
“You will hear about what goes on in the proceedings,” Saleh said, urging Yemen’s political parties to close ranks and cooperate to confront acts of terrorism, Saba reported.
Although Saleh said the group was arrested five days ago, sources close to the investigation told AFP he is believed to have been referring to six men rounded up in Sanaa after the September 17 attack on the US embassy which left 18 people dead.
Militants detonated a booby-trapped car before firing a volley of rockets at the heavily fortified embassy in the second attack targeting the mission since April.
The interior ministry said on September 22 that security forces were holding six key suspects over the attack, including an Islamist militant who claimed responsiblity for the strike.
“Security services succeeded in arresting six people, some of whom belong to Islamic Jihad, linked to Al-Qaeda and which claimed the attack,” the ministry said in a statement.
“One of these people answers to the name of Abu Ghaith al-Yamani, who signed a statement claiming the attack,” the ministry added.
The ministry said a total of 50 people were arrested in connection with the attack, in which six assailants were killed.
In Jerusalem, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry called Saleh’s accusations “totally ridiculous.”
“To believe that Israel would create Islamist cells in Yemen is really far-fetched. This is yet another victory for the proponents of conspiracy theories,” Igal Palmor told AFP.
In August, Yemeni security forces arrested five suspected Al-Qaeda militants in Hadramawt, days after the authorities revealed they had uncovered a new “terrorist” cell near the port city of Al-Mukalla.
Yemen, ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, has been battling suspected Al-Qaeda militants since before the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
In recent months, the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country has seen a series of attacks on security services and oil installations claimed by groups linked to Al-Qaeda.
The latest was the attack on the US embassy, for which an Al-Qaeda-linked group, the Organisation of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility.
In October 2000, Al-Qaeda attacked an American warship, the USS Cole, off the southern port of Aden with a small boat packed with explosives, killing 17 American sailors.