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Saudis breaking into al-Qaida ranks

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Saudi intelligence officials had the best information on al-Qaida's terror plot because they may have infiltrated a Yemeni cell, an intelligence official said.

The international counter-terrorism community is focusing on Yemen after it emerged that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida, may have played a role in last week's bomb plot targeting freight carriers.

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Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA terrorism analyst, told London's Guardian newspaper that parcel tracking numbers and other vital information came from Saudi agents who infiltrated AQAP.

Saudi Arabia last year entered the Yemeni fight against Shiite al-Houthi rebels following a series of border skirmishes. Sami Alfaraj, a director at the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies, confirmed the Saudi role, saying foreign intelligence agencies were finding it easier to break into al-Qaida ranks.

"The officials involved who I am talking to are saying that the gulf intelligence agencies are finding it easier to penetrate al-Qaida cells," he told the newspaper. "They are not as impregnable as they once were."

Riyadh ramped up its efforts against AQAP after a 2009 assassination attempt and Saudi intelligence chief Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz.

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Yemen, meanwhile, increased local pressure by trying in absentia U.S.-born al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki, an ideologue with links to a December plot on Detroit and the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting rampage last November.

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