U.S, U.K. shut down embassies in Yemen

Atul Aneja

Britain joins U.S. effort to counter terror threat

DUBAI: The United States has indefinitely shut down its embassy in Sana’a within days of the attempt by a Nigerian national to blow up a U.S. passenger jet in mid-air. The man was apparently working for a branch of the al-Qaeda, based in Yemen. The British embassy in Sana’a too was closed.

“The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a is closed on Sunday, January 3, 2010, in response to ongoing threats by the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to attack American interests in Yemen,” said a statement posted on the embassy website. There was no mention about how long the embassy would remain closed.

The decision followed a visit on Saturday by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in the region, to Yemen, where he expressed support for the Yemeni government’s drive to counter the al-Qaeda threat. Gen. Petraeus’ visit was preceded by his pledge to double the counter-terrorism aid to Yemen this year, from $67 million provided in 2009. In his recent weekly address, U.S. President Barack Obama said it was his “priority to strengthen our partnership with the Yemeni government, training and equipping their security forces, sharing intelligence and working with them to strike Al-Qaeda terrorists.”

Britain is also joining the U.S. effort in Yemen. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quoted as saying that Yemen had emerged as a new source of threat. He added that “there are many other potential sources, Somalia, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Mr. Brown has called a conference of world leaders in London later this month to discuss the terror threat from Yemen.

He also gave a go-ahead for the introduction of full body-scanners as part of increased security measures at British airports.

Yemen has become the focus of full-scale Anglo-American military attention following the claim by the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that it was behind the attempt by the 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to bomb a passenger airliner over Detroit. In its statement, the group appealed to Muslims for assistance in “killing every crusader who works at their embassies or other places.”

Analysts point out that Yemen has been a U.S. ally in recent years, but the threat perception of the dangers posed by the al-Qaeda in the country has heightened lately. In October 2000, 17 U.S. sailors were killed during an al-Qaeda suicide attack in Aden. Nineteen people were killed in September 2008, when the U.S. embassy in Yemen was attacked.

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