Yemen's government declared "open war" on al-Qa'ida yesterday in an abrupt reversal of previous offers to negotiate with the terrorist group.
At the same time, the country's council of Muslim clerics threatened to call for jihad if foreign troops were sent to Yemen.
"The war security forces launched against al-Qa'ida elements is open whenever or wherever we find these elements," said a government website. "Yemen is determined to clear its territory of al-Qa'ida members."
The warning was issued as the United States, Saudi Arabia and western governments put pressure on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to deal with the al-Qa'ida branch in Yemen, which claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day.
But Muslim clerics said they would declare a holy war if foreign troops entered the country.
"If any party. . . invades the country, then according to Islam, jihad becomes obligatory," said a statement signed by the council, comprising 150 influential clerics. (© Daily Telegraph, London)