July 04, 2012
SANAA/ADEN (Reuters) - Yemen said on Wednesday it had arrested about 13 members of an al-Qaeda linked cell tasked with killing government officials and intelligence officers.
"This was one of the most dangerous al Qaeda cells in Sanaa," an Interior Ministry source said.
He said the group was behind the killing of an intelligence officer who was responsible for the neighborhood where President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi lived.
The group was also behind an assassination attempt on Wednesday when, the Interior Ministry said, an official's car exploded minutes after he got out of it.
The Defence Ministry said on Tuesday that three other militant cells had been broken up.
The United States is deeply worried by the threat of an al Qaeda offshoot that has exploited political instability in Yemen to gain a foothold in the impoverished state, which borders the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.
Yemeni warplanes bombed Islamist militant hideouts in the south of the country on Wednesday.
A local security official said four air strikes killed eight militants in the al-Mahfadh area of Abyan, where they had taken refuge after being driven from their strongholds last month by Yemeni troops backed by the United States.
Despite losing control over several towns in Abyan, the militants, who call themselves Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), have proved they still pose a serious threat by assassinating a military commander in the port city of Aden last month.
Ansar al-Sharia swears allegiance to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which U.S. officials have called the most dangerous offshoot of the militant network.
A popular uprising that began in January 2011 and eventually toppled former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh severely weakened central government control over Yemen and gave Islamist militants an opportunity to seize territory for the first time.