San`a: Two al Qaeda militants
ambushed a bus carrying Yemeni security personnel in the
capital today, spraying the vehicle with gunfire and injuring
10 passengers, a security official said.
The violence shifted to the capital after a five-day
offensive to flush out 120 al Qaeda militants who had holed up
in a town in the lawless southern region where the local
branch of the terror group has found safe haven.
The gunmen, moving on foot, opened fire on the bus as it
was transporting security personnel back to their base in a
crowded neighbourhood in western San`a, the security official
said. The gunmen fled.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he
was not authorized to speak to the press.
The gunmen were able to evade security and carry out the
ambush despite a tip-off received a day earlier by the San`a
police chief that al Qaeda was plotting attacks against
security bases in the capital.
In response to the warning, police increased security
around a major base in a southern San`a neighbourhood that is
also home to foreign embassies. The main road leading to the
neighbourhood was also sealed and several additional
checkpoints were put up in various parts of the capital.
San`a is one of the few areas under the control of
Yemen`s weak government. Beyond the city, al Qaeda and other
Islamic militants roam relatively freely, particularly in the
remote, mountainous Shabwa province in the south.
Yemeni forces, backed by tanks and heavy artillery, drove
al Qaeda militants from the town of Hawta in Shabwa province
yesterday after five days of fighting.
Thousands of the town`s residents were forced to flee and
the al Qaeda militants took over homes as shelters.
The military said the militants fled into the mountains
and that soldiers were chasing them.
Area tribal chiefs, however, said they had negotiated an
end to the siege and persuaded the militants to leave
peacefully before the army entered the town.
Yemen, the poorest nation in the Arab world, suffers
major internal security problems other than al Qaeda -- an
on-and-off Shiite rebellion in the north and a separate
secessionist movement in the south.
It is intensifying its campaign against al Qaeda in the
Arabian Peninsula a year and a half after the group formed
with the merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches.
The US is aiding Yemen`s military financially and with
training. Washington is deeply concerned about the group,
which claimed responsibility for the failed attempt to down a
Detroit-bound jetliner with a suicide bomber in December.