Yemen in dark over 'underwear bomber'


SANA’A – Yemen had no knowledge of what the US said was a plot by a Yemen-based wing of al-Qaeda to put a bomb on an aircraft bound for a western country, Yemeni officials said yesterday.

US officials said on Monday that an “underwear bomb”, similar to one used in a failed attack on a US-bound aircraft in 2009, had been seized in the Middle East in the past 10 days.

The officials said they believed the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had planned to use a suicide bomber to detonate the device, without saying where it had been seized.

One US official has said the bomb appeared to be similar to the work of fugitive Saudi militant Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, who US intelligence officials think is AQAP’s main bombmaker.

Washington backed a power transfer deal under which former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, once seen as a vital partner in US counter-terrorism efforts, left office in February. Mr Saleh gave way to Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, his deputy, after more than a year of mass protests against his 33-year rule that split the military and ignited bouts of open warfare between pro- and anti-Saleh factions as well as tribal militias.

The United States, which seeks to kill alleged al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen with drone and missile strikes, now wants Mr Hadi to re-unify the military and use it against al-Qaeda.

In the latest apparent drone strike, two Yemeni members of al-Qaeda were killed in their car in the Wadi Rafad valley in Shabwa province in southern Yemen on Sunday, residents there and a spokesman for the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia group said.

The residents named one man who died as Fahd al-Qasaa, who escaped from prison in 2005 and who had been convicted for involvement in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship. – (Reuters)