Al Qaeda in Yemen has warned kinsmen of a US born radical preacher against collaborating with the government, according to a statement from the group that appeared to predate last week’s parcel bomb plot.
The statement addressed to the Awlaki tribe, posted on an Islamist website late on Tuesday, made no mention of the plot to mail two parcel bombs from Yemen to the United States uncovered last week and thought to be the work of the group’s Yemen-based regional wing, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The government sealed a deal last month with tribesmen of preacher Anwar al-Awlaki to help security forces in their quest to root out al Qaeda in their native province of Shabwa, Reuters reports.
Awlaki is wanted dead or alive by Washington for his links with al Qaeda and is now the target of a manhunt and a trial in absentia, both launched by the government on Tuesday after the parcel plot caused a global security alert.
The impoverished Arabian Peninsula state is facing growing international pressure to crack down on militants operating in its territory and the head of the US agency charged with overseeing cargo security met Yemeni officials in Sanaa on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
“Whoever decides to stand with them (the West and the government) and be subservient to their demands should be wary of God’s punishment,” the group said in the statement.
“Support us in our fight against the enemies of God, America and its agents, and distance yourselves from a position that pleases cross-worshippers among rulers of the White House.”
Yemen launched a security operation on Tuesday to arrest a Saudi bomb maker accused of being behind the foiled bomb plot, and said it also aimed to capture Awlaki. Suspected al Qaeda fighters blew up an oil pipeline, apparently in response.
UPGRADED AIRPORT SECURITY
Governments around the world have tightened aviation security after two U.S.-bound parcels with explosive material, sent in air cargo from Yemen, were intercepted in Britain and Dubai last week.
Yemen’s Transport Ministry said it was launching a new airport unit aimed to tackle the loophole in international cargo security exploited by the plotters.
The unit will hand search all parcels before passing them through bomb-detection equipment and x-ray machines, the ministry said in a statement.
John Pistole, head of the US Transportation Security Administration, met Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi and aviation officials and he also toured a cargo facility in Sanaa, the agency said.
“We face a determined enemy, one who modifies their actions looking for any opportunity to exploit security,” Pistole said in a statement. “I am pleased with the work of our TSA inspectors and the cooperation of Yemeni officials to improve cargo security practices.”
A US team is in Yemen to train Yemenis in the use of advanced screening equipment, Yemeni officials have said.
In the southern flashpoint province of Abyan, clashes with militants reignited, a day after the government launched the campaign against al Qaeda operatives suspected of being behind the parcel bomb plots.
Authorities defused a car bomb in Abyan’s second largest city of Ja’ar on Wednesday, after violent clashes broke out, killing one soldier and wounding 10. At least one suspected al Qaeda member was also injured, a local security official said.