US, UK close embassies in Yemen

Decision follows security concerns about possible attacks by terror groups

US, UK close embassies in Yemen

The US Embassy said it had received a threat from the al-Qaeda, which US intelligence agencies believe has a growing presence in the poor Arab country. A British Foreign Office spokeswoman cited security reasons for the embassy’s closure but declined to say if any specific threat had been made.

Yemen has already tightened security on its coastline to stop Islamist militants infiltrating from Somalia and held talks with a US general on strengthening cooperation.
But Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi said his government was not coordinating strikes against the al-Qaeda with the US.

Western allies have sought to bolster Yemen’s government, which faces a Shi’ite rebellion in the north and a separatist movement in the south, for fear that the al-Qaeda might exploit its instability to launch more attacks across the globe.
A Nigerian man, charged with trying to bomb a Detroit-bound passenger plane on Christmas Day, is believed to have received training from the militant group in Yemen.
Al-Qaeda said the attempt was in retaliation for US involvement in Yemen and its military support for the government, which has launched an offensive against the militants.
The US Embassy told its Yemeni staff to stay in their homes on Sunday.
“The US Embassy in Sana’a is closed today, January 3, 2010, in response to ongoing threats from the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to attack American interests in Yemen,” a statement on the embassy website said.

In Washington, a senior aide to President Barack Obama said the United States has indications that the al-Qaeda was planning an attack against a target in Sanaa.
“We know that the al-Qaeda is out there. We know we have to mind our steps,” homeland security and counterterrorism aide John Brennan told CNN.
US officials have said Washington was looking at ways to expand military and intelligence cooperation with Yemen to increase pressure on al-Qaeda militants in the Arabian Peninsula.

Counterterrorism police
The US and Britain have agreed to fund a counterterrorism police unit as part of the effort.

Foreign Minister Qirbi, quoted by the state news agency, said Yemen was cooperating with foreign countries in exchanging information and training.
Asked if Yemen had agreed to allow US missiles and aircraft to strike al-Qaeda targets in Yemen, Qirbi said: “There is no agreement with the US in this regard.” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office said Britain and the United States had agreed to intensify their joint work to tackle “the emerging terrorist threat” from both Yemen and Somalia in the wake of the failed plane attack.

Washington has already increased training, intelligence and military equipment provided to Yemeni forces, helping them to stage raids against suspected al-Qaeda hideouts last month.

General David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, said last week that Washington would more than double its $70 million security assistance to Yemen.
Northern Shi’ite rebels from the Zaidi sect have been fighting the government troops in Yemen’s mountainous north since 2004, complaining of marginalisation. The conflict has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands.

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