Yemen's Foreign Minister said Tuesday his country had tracked down two key al-Qaeda suspects wanted by Washington and was prepared to capture them by force if they do not surrender, according to AP.
Abubaker Al-Qirbi's comments somewhat contradict recent statements by Yemeni authorities that the country, site of the USS Cole bombing, is free of al-Qaeda operatives.
Al-Qirbi said Yemen was responding to a U.S. list of suspects that American investigators want to question for alleged links to Osama bin Laden, the mastermind the U.S. believes is behind the September 11 attacks. However, the Foreign Minister appealed for understanding of the difficulties faced by his country, a tribal society where large areas are outside the government's full control.
Government forces, the Minister said, could not just raid tribal areas to take in suspects for fear of turning the powerful tribes against the government.
According to a U.S. embassy official, there were 39 Yemenis that Washington wanted to interrogate, some of whom may no longer be in Yemen at the moment. The U.S. military also is believed to be holding several Yemenis among the hundreds of detainees captured in Afghanistan in the framework of the global campaign against terrorism.
Al-Qirbi said that Yemen had made its own arrests since September 11. He said government forces inside Yemen were negotiating the surrender of the two most important men on the U.S. list, whom he identified as Qaed Salim Sunian al-Harethi and Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal.
“The government's political security force knows where they are and I think the issue now is whether they will hand themselves over or if the government will have to take stern action to arrest them,” Al-Qirbi conveyed.
He added that under an agreement with Washington detained suspects were being interrogated “in cooperation with the United States.” If charged, the Yemenis would be tried at home, Al-Qirbi said.
Al-Harethi and al-Ahdal were among Arab fighters who returned home from Afghanistan in the 1990s, where they took part in the war against the Soviet army.
Al-Qirbi said that the majority of Yemenis who fought in Afghanistan now lead normal lives and do not have ties with the al-Qeada network.
However, Al-Qirbi remarked, “there remains a small core of militant Afghan Arabs in Yemen that is probably maintaining contacts with bin Laden.” The government knows who they are and their activities were being monitored, he said.
Al-Qirbi assured that San’aa had taken several measures to combat terrorism and uproot al-Qaeda, often with the help of the United States.
Since last month, additional forces had been stationed in three regions where al-Qaeda suspects were believed to have been active and that close cooperation with tribes in those areas had led to the recent arrest of at least 24 suspects.
In a related development, Yemen's Al-Wahdah weekly quoted a reliable source as saying intensive security campaigns are still in full swing to arrest suspects involved with terror actions.
According to this report, Yemen's security forces could arrest number of wanted suspects among them was Syrian-national with Yemeni person charged to help him to get Yemeni passport issued from Yafee directorate. (Albawaba.com)
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