Yemen's security forces have captured three al-Qaeda armed operatives a day after an air strike killed at least five senior leaders including al-Qaeda's top military commander.

The three militants were seized on Saturday, close to Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia.

Yemen has visibly stepped up its counter-terrorism drive following the arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year old Nigerian who failed in his attempt to bomb an American airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day. Mr. Abdulmutallab had spent time in Yemen, where he had reportedly met radical U.S.-born Yemeni cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki. Mr. Awlaki had apparently counselled Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the American psychiatrist who has been accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, a U.S. military facility in Texas.

On Friday, Yemeni air strikes had killed Qassim al-Raymi, the al-Qaeda commander widely believed to be the mastermind of several plots hatched by the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The AQAP had also taken responsibility for the failed Christmas Day airline bombing. Mr. Raymi's name had cropped up prominently, when he, as part of a group of 23 al-Qaeda militants, escaped prison in February 2006.

Analysts say that Raymi's assassination, if confirmed, would be a serious blow to the AQAP.

Others killed in the strike included Aidh al-Shabwani, the al-Qaeda leader in Marib province. The Marib province is the gateway to the Al Kur mountains, where the AQAP runs three training camps, according to the Saudi-owned daily, Asharq al-Awsat. Others who died were identified as Salih al-Tays and Ibrahim al-Bina.

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