Yemen on alert for Al Qaida attack on oil facilities

Friday, September 3, 2004

Yemen has bolstered port security amid a threat of attack by Al Qaida.

Yemeni officials said authorities have increased security at all sea ports and oil terminals. They said Sanaa has been alerted to the prospect that Al Qaida might try to send insurgents into the country for an attack.

The security effort has included operations by Yemen's new coast guard. The coast guard was launched in early 2004 with eight vessels supplied by the United States, Middle East Newsline reported. Another 15 vessels were expected by October in an effort to protect Yemen's 2,200-kilometer coastline.

"We received information about the intention of a foreign terrorist group to carry out sabotage acts on vital oil facilities on Yemeni shores," a senior Yemeni official said. "Our intelligence confirmed those terrorists are now receiving training for the attacks."

The security effort has also included the deployment of helicopters around two oil terminals on the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea. Officials said the effort has been coordinated with the United States.

Earlier this week, Yemeni insurgents abducted several Western nationals based in oil facilities off the coast of the Red Sea. After several hours, the workers were released.

In August, Brig. Gen. Samuel Helland, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, met senior Yemeni officials and commanders to discuss the Al Qaida threat to Yemen. Officials said the two sides also discussed U.S. military cooperation to Sanaa, including the expected arrival of American patrol craft for Yemen's new coast guard.

Officials said the United States has lifted a ban on the sale of military equipment to Yemen imposed during the outbreak of the civil war in the Arab League state in 1994. They said the decision to lift the embargo, relayed by a senior visiting U.S. official on Wednesday, would pave the way for American exports of combat platforms and systems to Yemen's military and security forces.

Officials said the latest Al Qaida threat appeared connected to the prosecution of those charged with blowing up the USS Cole destroyer in Aden in 2000. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed and 33 others were injured in the attack.

On Aug. 28, 15 suspected Al Qaida insurgents were convicted for their role in a series of attacks, including that on a French oil tanker Limburg and a helicopter carrying U.S. oil workers. The defendants were also convicted for plotting to kill the U.S. ambassador to Sanaa and Yemeni security officials.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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