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Yemen says it foiled al-Qaida plot to attack energy facilities, port

Aug. 7, 2013 at 9:35 AM   |   Comments

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SANAA, Yemen, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- An al-Qaida plot to attack and seize strategic locations in Yemen has been foiled, a spokesman for the country's prime minister said Wednesday.

Rajeh Badi said the terrorist group's plan to capture oil and gas facilities and ports was squashed earlier this week, CNN reported.

"Al Qaida sought to attack the oil pipelines but failed and tried to attack through the coast of [port city] Mukalla but failed as well," he said.

Wednesday morning, six militants were killed in two drone strikes in Shabwa province, Yemeni officials said.

A local security officer said those killed were not believed to be senior al-Qaida members.

Yemeni security forces are on high alert Wednesday amid fears of a looming al-Qaida attack and reports the CIA resumed drone strikes against al-Qaida in Yemen.

The U.S. State department described the possible terror attack as an "immediate, specific threat."

Yemeni intelligence services said dozens of al-Qaida members were discovered to have arrived in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, in preparation for an attack, the BBC reported.

The attack would likely involve explosions and suicide bombings of Western diplomatic missions and Yemen's military headquarters, the British broadcaster said, citing a security source.

In light of this, "extraordinary and unprecedented" security measures were in place in Sanaa, with tanks and troops surrounding foreign missions, government offices, the Yemeni presidential palace and the airport, the BBC said.

The U.S. Joint Special Operations Command was preparing for a possible attack against al-Qaida in Yemen, the BBC said.

JSOC is the special operations unit that killed U.S.-born Yemeni cleric and al-Qaida member Anwar al-Awlaki with Hellfire missiles in Yemen two years ago next month.

The unit, part of the U.S. Special Operations Command, cooperates closely with the CIA, which resumed drone strikes in Yemen 11 days ago to disrupt al-Qaida's terrorism plot, the BBC and The Washington Post reported.

The campaign -- with four strikes in rapid succession -- ends a period in which U.S. drone activity in Yemen has been relatively rare, the Post said.

It's not clear if the renewed attacks, including a strike in Yemen's eastern Marib region Tuesday, curbed the danger, U.S. officials told the Post, acknowledging they didn't know if senior al-Qaida operatives in Yemen had been killed.

The State Department said Tuesday it ordered the evacuation of much of the U.S. Embassy staff in Sanaa and urged all Americans to leave the country immediately.

The decision drew a sharp rebuke from the Yemeni government, which said through its embassy in Washington the evacuation served "the interests of the extremists and undermines the exceptional cooperation between Yemen and the international alliance against terrorism."

It said Yemen had "taken all necessary precautions to ensure the safety and security of foreign missions in the capital."

State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki disagreed with Yemen's statement the evacuation served the interest of extremists and undermined cooperation. She said the reason for removing Americans from Yemen was obvious and needed no further explanation.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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