12 Killed as Yemeni Troops Attack Suspected Bin Laden Fighters
Yemeni special forces backed by tanks and helicopters Tuesday raided a village where combatants of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network were believed to be holed up, leaving 12 people dead, tribal sources said.
Several more men on both sides were wounded, the sources told AFP.
Yemeni army and police units laid siege during the morning to Al Hosun village in Marib province, 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of the capital Sanaa.
The special troops fired shells "in the hunt for elements who returned recently from Afghanistan and who are believed to be members of Al Qaeda," one tribal source said.
A gunbattle followed between government forces and men of the Abeideh tribe, who control the plains village near the town of Marib and have sheltered the Al Qaeda supporters, witnesses said.
The clashes "left 12 people dead from the two sides", a tribal dignitary told AFP. Police would neither confirm nor deny the toll.
"Several people were also wounded," said the tribal elder, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Army tanks also entered the fray and several houses were destroyed, witnesses said.
"The military attack came to a halt in the middle of the afternoon after about two and a half hours of shelling," the tribal elder said.
"Hostilities have stopped," said a police source who asked not to be named. But "tension remains very high in the region."
"Special units and helicopters are combing the provinces of Marib, Shabwa and Al Juf in search of two or three members of Al Qaeda, holders of Yemeni passports," said the latest edition of September 26 weekly, which has close links to the military and President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Many Al Qaeda members are reportedly on the run from Afghanistan after US-backed Afghan opposition forces routed the Taliban regime which sheltered bin Laden, wanted for the September 11 terror attacks on the United States.
Saudi-born bin Laden's family originates from Yemen and the world's most wanted terrorist has found support among Islamists from his ancestral home who followed him to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
The United States suspects bin Laden was also behind the October 2000 blowing up of the US destroyer Cole in Aden harbor, southern Yemen, that killed 17 American sailors.
Saleh, who has said Yemen could be a target in the US-led war against terror, created special forces to battle terror last year under the command of his son, Colonel Ahmed Abdullah Saleh.
Yemen has arrested two or three members of Al Qaeda, Saleh has said, adding that Washington gave him a list of wanted suspects during his November 27 visit when he met US President George W. Bush.
Around 25 people have been arrested in connection with the suicide bombing of the Cole, the president said in November -- AFP
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