Yemen vowed on Monday not to become a new refuge for Al-Qaeda like Afghanistan as the jihadists’ franchise in the impoverished Arabian peninsula republic urged new attacks against Western targets.
“Yemen is a land of peace and security, and will never be a refuge for these terrorist murderers and drug traffickers,” the defence ministry newspaper quoted a senior security official as saying.
“Our mountains will never be a new Tora Bora for them,” the official added, referring to the Afghan hideout where US-backed Afghan opposition forces came close to capturing or killing Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in December 2001.
“We will hunt them down until we have rooted out their terrorism and cleansed Yemeni soil of their satanic crimes,” the newspaper’s 26Sep.net. quoted the official as saying.
He promised “more operations against the terrorists and their hideouts” like those of December 17 and 24, days on which the Yemeni air force launched deadly strikes against suspected jihadist targets.
The official’s comments came after a statement posted on an Islamist website in the name of Al-Qaeda threatened revenge for this month’s attacks.
The statement called on Yemen’s powerful tribes to “tackle head-on this campaign by the Crusaders and their agents… by striking their military bases, the intelligence stations concealed in their embassies, and their naval vessels operating in the waters off the Arabian peninsula.”
Yemen is Bin Laden’s ancestral homeland. In the most spectacular attack by the jihadists in the country so far, Al-Qaeda suicide bombers killed 17 US sailors on the destroyer USS Cole in the southern port of Aden in October 2000.
The United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against Al-Qaeda in Yemen, The New York Times reported late Sunday.
Citing an unnamed former top CIA official, the newspaper said that a year ago the Central Intelligence Agency sent many field operatives with counterterrorism experience to the country.
At the same time, some of the most secretive special operations commandos have begun training Yemeni security forces in counterterrorism tactics, the report said.
The Pentagon will be spending more than 70 million dollars over the next 18 months, and using teams of special forces, to train and equip Yemeni military, Interior Ministry and coast guard forces, more than doubling previous military aid levels, the paper noted.