Top Yemen al Qaeda leader threatens U.S. attacks

DUBAI Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:30pm EST

Qassim al-Raymi in an undated image. A senior member of al Qaeda's Yemen wing who the Yemeni government said it killed has emerged on an internet forum, threatening to carry out attacks in the United States. EUTERS/Handout

Qassim al-Raymi in an undated image. A senior member of al Qaeda's Yemen wing who the Yemeni government said it killed has emerged on an internet forum, threatening to carry out attacks in the United States. EUTERS/Handout

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DUBAI (Reuters) - An article under the name of a senior member of al Qaeda's Yemen wing that the Yemeni government said it had killed has appeared on an Internet forum, threatening to carry out attacks in the United States.

Yemen declared an open war on al Qaeda on its territory last month after the group's regional off-shoot claimed responsibility for a failed bomb attack on a Detroit-bound plane in December that grabbed world headlines.

"Today, you have attacked us in the middle of our household, so wait for what will befall you in the middle of yours ... We will blow up the earth from beneath your feet," Qasim al-Raymi, the wing's military commander, said in an article posted earlier this month on a website used by Islamist militants.

Yemen said in January it had killed six regional militant leaders in air strikes, but al Qaeda later denied this, and other senior members Sanaa had said were dead, such as deputy leader Saeed al-Shehri, have since re-emerged on the websites.

The authenticity of the article could not be verified.

In an audio tape, Shehri, a former inmate of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, called for a regional holy war and a blockade of the Red Sea to cut off U.S. shipments to Israel.

Growing instability in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, is a major security concern to the United States and neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter.

MISSING SAUDI SOLDIERS DEAD -REBELS

Earlier this month, Sanaa struck a truce with Shi'ite rebels in the north, who have fought the government intermittently since 2004 over religious, economic and social grievances.

The rebels said on Tuesday the last two missing Saudi soldiers they were believed to be holding captive were dead, Al Jazeera television reported.

A rebel spokesman told the television the insurgents had informed a ceasefire committee about the death of the two soldiers, the last of five held by the insurgents who released the three others, Al Jazeera said.

Saudi Arabia was drawn into the conflict between the rebels and the Yemeni government in November, after the insurgents seized Saudi territory bordering north Yemen in November.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh began a visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to try to persuade Riyadh to lead Gulf donors by example in helping his country as it battles al Qaeda.

U.S. intelligence officials say al Qaeda's Yemen wing is emerging as the militant group's most active and sophisticated cell outside the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has approved more than doubling U.S. funding to train and equip Yemeni security forces to combat al Qaeda, U.S. defense officials said on Monday.

In his article, Raymi said U.S. assistance to Yemen has strengthened the militants' popularity among local tribes.

Addressing the U.S. government, he wrote: "You united us with our people ... the catastrophe unites those it befalls."

Yemen's government has weak control in swathes of the country where the population adheres to tribal laws. It also faces unrest from a southern secessionist movement.

A Yemeni military officer was killed in an ambush in south Yemen on Monday, state media said, following a week of violence after police shot dead a southern protester earlier this month.

The officer is the third security official killed in south Yemen in a week, following security sweeps in which authorities seeking to quash strife have arrested around 80 separatists.

(Additional reporting by Cynthia Johnston, and Souhail Karam in Riyadh; Writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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