* Iran, Muslim Brotherhood a "menace" to Gulf states
* Yemen-based AQAP is one of al Qaeda's most active wings
* UAE cell said to plan bombings in UAE, Saudi Arabia
By Mahmoud Habboush
DUBAI, Jan 9 A suspected Islamist militant cell
detained in the United Arab Emirates had links to al Qaeda,
including its prominent Yemen-based wing, Dubai's police chief
said in an interview published on Wednesday.
Dahi Khalfan also said the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and
Shi'ite Iran were among the main security threats to Gulf Arab
states because they wanted to export revolution to the region.
The United Arab Emirates, a major oil producer that has
supported Western counter-terrorism efforts in the region,
announced the arrest of the UAE cell on Dec. 26 in a joint
operation with Saudi Arabia.
"They are adherents of al Qaeda and its misguided doctrine,"
Khalfan told the Saudi-owned Asharq Al Awsat newspaper. "Some of
the (cell) members are affiliated with al Qaeda in Yemen," he
said, referring to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The group had planned bomb attacks on targets in the UAE,
Saudi Arabia and other states in the region, rather than setting
out to assassinate individuals, Khalfan added.
The Dubai police chief said he was concerned that AQAP
members were making their way to the Gulf, but said Saudi
anti-terrorism efforts had reduced al Qaeda's threat to the
The UAE has so far escaped attack by al Qaeda or other
insurgent groups, but some of the seven emirates in the
federation have seen a rise in Islamist sentiment in recent
years. Security analysts say Dubai, a cosmopolitan business and
tourism hub, could make an attractive target for militants.
AQAP, formed in 2009 by a merger of al Qaeda's Yemeni and
Saudi branches, remains a threat, although its attempts to pull
off a spectacular attack abroad have so far been thwarted.
In 2010, it claimed responsibility for two sophisticated
parcel bombs sent to the United States. The bombs were
intercepted in Britain and Dubai before they could explode.
In August, Saudi authorities arrested a group of suspected
al Qaeda-linked militants, mostly Yemeni nationals, in the
capital Riyadh, suggesting the group remained highly active.
A Yemeni official said AQAP had individual sponsors in the
Gulf, adding that UAE authorities had not officially contacted
Sanaa about possible links between the UAE cell and al Qaeda.
"We know that al Qaeda gets financial support from some
individuals in the region and that members of al Qaeda come from
some neighbouring countries to fight alongside the group in
Yemen," said the official, who asked not to be named.
Washington has backed a political transition in Yemen and
stepped up drone strikes on suspected militants there to try to
curb AQAP's influence and prevent a spillover of violence into
U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter.
Khalfan said al Qaeda was not the UAE's only security
threat, citing dangers from Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood,
swept to power in Egypt after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
He said the menace from Iran and the Brotherhood - which
have significant ideological differences - was similar.
"They both want to export the revolution," he said. "What
the Muslim Brothers are aiming for at the moment is to shred and
denigrate the reputation of the Gulf rulers."
In July, Khalfan warned of an international plot to
overthrow Gulf Arab governments, saying the region needed to be
prepared to counter any threat from Muslim Brotherhood
sympathisers as well as from Syria and Iran.
The UAE has escaped the upheaval that has shaken the Arab
world but moved swiftly to stem any sign of political dissent by
detaining more than 60 local Islamists last year over alleged
threats to state security and links to a foreign group.
Public prosecutors are investigating women members of a
"secret organisation" - a reference to a group UAE authorities
say has been formed by Islamists affiliated to the Muslim
Brotherhood, the state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.
The Islamists have been accused of "founding and managing an
organisation that aims at seizing power" in the UAE, it said.