Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fight against terrorism flares again in Yemen

WASHINGTON — The world has heard a good deal in recent days from a stern, 62-year-old Egyptian doctor thought to be hiding somewhere in Pakistan.

Ayman al-Zawahri, who ascended to the top of al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden's killing in 2011, used a video speech posted in jihadi forums on July 30 to rail against U.S. treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and pledged that his group would spare no effort to free them.

Days later, he criticized the overthrow of the Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, as part of a "crusader" plot to divide his native Egypt.

But it is another communication of Zawahri's — a secret correspondence between him and the leader of the al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen — that has caused deep concern inside the U.S. government about a possible terrorist plot by the group. Those fears prompted a mass closing of 19 U.S. embassies and diplomatic outposts.

Zawahri used the communication to urge the Yemeni al-Qaida leader, Nasser al-Wahishi, to carry out a large terrorist attack, and separately he had elevated Wahishi to a more important role inside al-Qaida, the New York Times reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

Some analysts have characterized these moves as the last, desperate acts of a leader who no longer wields the influence he once did. To others, Zawahri is wisely making plans for the future of a group he hopes can thrive long after his death.

The United States and Britain on Tuesday increased security precautions in Yemen, with Washington urging all U.S. citizens to leave the country, while ordering all "nonemergency" and some "emergency" government personnel to do the same. Britain's Foreign Office announced it had pulled its diplomatic staff out of the capital "due to increased security concerns."

The British and U.S. warnings came several hours after Yemeni military officials said that at least four men suspected of being members of al-Qaida were killed in what was described as a U.S. drone strike in the eastern Marib region of Yemen early Tuesday. It was the fourth U.S. strike in the last two weeks.

As Westerners flew out of the country, Yemeni authorities launched a wide investigation into the al-Qaida threat to multiple potential targets in the impoverished Arab nation.

The Yemeni army surrounded foreign installations, government offices and the airport with tanks and troops in the nation's capital, drawing parallels with security measures after the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbor that killed 17 American sailors.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said the U.S. Air Force transported State Department personnel out of Sana early Tuesday. The department said in a travel warning that it had ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel "due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks," adding that U.S. citizens should leave immediately because of an "extremely high" security threat level.

Yemen's government criticized the evacuations in a statement from its embassy in Washington, saying the diplomatic withdrawal "serves the interests of the extremists and undermines the exceptional cooperation" between Yemen and the international community in fighting terrorism.

Yemeni officials say the drone fired a missile at a car carrying four men in the al-Arqeen district of Marib province, setting it on fire and killing them. One of the dead was believed to be Saleh Jouti, a senior al-Qaida member.

Also Tuesday, militants shot down a Yemeni military helicopter over the al-Qaida stronghold in central Yemen, officials said. The helicopter was flying from Sana to Marib province, officials said. The eight who were killed were part of a military force guarding oil installations in the province.

The CIA has kept up its drone campaign in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where U.S. spy agencies assume Zawahri is hiding. Pakistani officials vigorously deny he is anywhere in the country.

The last time the CIA thought it was close to capturing or killing him was late 2009, when a Jordanian doctor claimed to have infiltrated the highest levels of al-Qaida and said he could inform the United States about Zawahri's precise hiding spot.

But the doctor, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Bulawi, was a double agent. On Dec. 30, 2009, he blew himself up after being let onto a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, an attack that killed seven CIA employees.

Information from the New York Times and Associated Press was used in this report.

Fight against terrorism flares again in Yemen 08/06/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 4:52am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA

    Airlines

    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  2. St. Petersburg man shot in arm during home invasion robbery

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — One man was arrested on charges he shot another man in the arm while attempting to rob a home in what St. Petersburg police are calling a drug-related incident.

    John Alam, 25, faces charges of home invasion robbery, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon after deputies said he tried to rob a home Wednesday morning and ended up shooting someone. [Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Bob Buckhorn, a mayor who knows what he wants, surveys constituents on what they want

    Local

    TAMPA — Focus has not been a problem — or really, even a question — during the six-plus years that Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been in office.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn keeps a digital countdown clock in his office showing the days, hours. minutes and seconds until he is term-limited out of office on April 1, 2019. As of Wednesday, he had 584 days to go. [City of Tampa]
  4. WATCH: Heroic Hooters manager helps two sheriff's deputies subdue unruly customer

    Crime

    BRANDON — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office praised a heroic Hooters Restaurant manager Wednesday for coming to the aid of two deputies struggling to subdue an unruly customer.

    It took two deputies and a Hooter's manager to get control of Ashton B. Toney after he threatened to kill an employee who refused to serve him alcohol at a Hooter's in Brandon, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reported.
[Booking photo from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]