x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Yemen's police thwart Aden attack

Interior ministry says suspect's confession led officers to detain six accomplices and search for two more ahead of Gulf Football Cup.

SANA'A// Police foiled an attempted bombing in Aden, the southern Yemeni city that is preparing to host the 20th Gulf Football Cup.

The man was arrested as he placed a plastic bag containing 1,800 grammes of dynamite in one of the city's "vital installations", the interior ministry said in a statement late Saturday.

The suspect was questioned and on the basis of his confession, officers detained six accomplices and were searching for another two, the statement said.

Meanwhile, the trial of five people charged with bombing a sports club in Aden earlier this month got under way in a special terrorism court. The men were also accused of attempting to bomb a petrol station in the city.

Four people were killed and 23 others wounded after twin bombs were set off at the al Wahdah sporting club on October 11.

The prosecution charges statement said that Faris Abdullah Ali, 25, one of the men on trial, carried out the bombing while the other four were accomplices.

The defendants, who claim they were tortured by police, have denied the charges and requested they be allowed to meet with their defence lawyers. The court approved the request and the trial was adjourned until Wednesday.

The government said last week it had deployed an additional 30,000 soldiers across Aden and Abyan to boost security ahead of next month's football tournament.

The rush to trial was apparently aimed at reassuring the six Gulf countries - which includes the UAE - and Iraq, who are participating in the Gulf Football Cup, according to local media reports.

Separately, more than 1,000 soldiers backed by local tribesmen yesterday began a manhunt for suspected al Qa'eda militants in the southern province of Shabwa.

Members of the al Awalik tribe were taking part in the operation, the state-run Saba news agency quoted an unnamed security official as saying.

The offensive comes after a deal between Shabwa's governor and the al Awalik tribe, under which it agreed to help drive out al Qa'eda elements from its territory.

Yemen's foreign minister, Abu Bakr al Qirbi, estimates there are some 400 al Qa'eda fighters active in the country. Saudi nationals are among active fighters, the al Hayat daily quoted him yesterday as saying.

The extremist Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al Awlaki, who is wanted by the United States on terrorism-related charges, belongs to the al Awalik tribe and is believed to be hiding in Shabwa.

The official said the operation is being carried out in the rugged and mountainous district of al Saeed and the al Kawr mountains, where al Qa'eda is believed to have bases.

Washington accuses Mr al Awlaki of being an al Qa'eda leader with links to the failed bombing of a US-bound airliner in December 2009 and to an army major who went on a shooting rampage that killed 13 people last year at the Fort Hood army base in Texas.

In April, a US official said the Obama administration had authorised the targeted killing of Mr al Awlaki.

A new video featuring the cleric was posted on Saturday on the Al Shammukh jihadist website.

Al Qa'eda attacks have increased in recent months in southern Yemen, where there is also a growing separatist movement.

malqadhi@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press