Western embassies in Yemen close amid terror fears
Published 05/01/2010 | 05:00
FEARS of a terrorist strike against Western embassies in Yemen grew yesterday with claims that lorries laden with explosives had been smuggled into the capital, Sana'a.
Militants driving six trucks filled with weapons and ordnance are thought to have entered the city.
The disclosure came as Western diplomatic missions in Sana'a went into lockdown after threats from al-Qa'ida's Yemeni affiliate, al-Qa'ida in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), which has claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day.
The British and American embassies, considered the highest-profile targets, remained closed for a second day.
France and the Czech Republic also shut their embassies, while Spain, Germany and Japan announced restrictions on public access to their missions.
The identity of those who smuggled the weapons consignment into Sana'a has not been disclosed, and it is unclear whether they are linked to al-Qa'ida's powerful Yemeni branch.
Although an AQAP statement on Sunday urged its followers to kill all Western diplomats on the Arab Peninsula, Western officials have not divulged whether specific threats have been made.
Diplomats dismissed speculation that the vanishing convoy could presage an imminent attack on Western interests in the city. "These reports have nothing to do with the reason embassies were shut," one said.
John Brennan, President Barack Obama's counter-terrorism adviser, has spoken of "indications" that al-Qa'ida was planning an attack on a Western target in Sana'a, possibly the US embassy, which was attacked twice in 2008, killing 19 people.
The disappearance of so large a shipment of explosives will enhance the tense atmosphere in Sana'a.
It will also raise fresh concerns about Yemen's competence in dealing with the al-Qa'ida threat.
A combination of corruption, poverty and lawlessness has helped turn Yemen into fertile breeding ground for al-Qa'ida. Some observers have said the country could emerge as a "new Afghanistan" and Gordon Brown this weekend gave warning that Yemen was becoming a "failing state".
Keen to demonstrate its commitment to fighting terror, the Yemeni government said its forces had killed two suspected al-Qa'ida members in an operation in the mountainous Arhab region, 25 miles north of the capital.
The raid took place close to the scene of government air strikes on December 17 that killed three members of an AQAP cell who were allegedly plotting to blow up the British embassy in Sana'a. (©Daily Telegraph, London)