Al Qaeda says was behind ambush on Yemen officers

DUBAI, Nov 5 (Reuters) - An al Qaeda group claimed responsibility on Thursday for the killing of seven Yemeni security officials in an ambush near the Saudi border this week.

The attack on Tuesday was on the same day Yemeni rebels killed a Saudi security officer in a cross-border raid, underlining the growing security threat from Yemen to U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter.

The attack on the Yemeni officers was carried out in the Hadramout valley region as they were returning from a visit to a Yemeni post on the Saudi border.

"This operation was in support of our brothers imprisoned in the jails of Hadramout, Sanaa and elsewhere, and ... against all those who seek to bring harm to the mujahideen," al Qaeda's Arabian Peninsula wing said in a statement posted on an Islamist website.

Yemeni officials said at the time that they suspected al Qaeda was behind the attack as its militants were active in the region where the ambush was set.

Western countries and Saudi Arabia fear that al Qaeda will gain momentum from an insurrection by Shi'ite rebels in north Yemen and separatist sentiment in the south.

Al Qaeda said earlier this year that its Saudi and Yemeni branches had merged into Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to widen its attacks to destabilise the region's Western-backed governments.

Riyadh says many wanted Saudi militants are in Yemen. One returned in August, pretending to have given up militancy but then tried to assassinate Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

Analysts say central government control is in danger of unravelling in Yemen, a mountainous country of 23 million that is regarded as one of the world's poorest. (Reporting by Inal Ersan; Editing by Charles Dick)