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Yemen: We foiled al Qaeda plot

Yemeni officials have revealed that they foiled a major al Qaeda plot. Western diplomatic missions across the Middle East and Africa, many of which have shut temporarily over the increased threats, remain on alert.

Authorities in Yemen on Wednesday said they had halted al Qaeda terrorists in their tracks, thwarting terrorist plans to seize control of cities in southern Yemen and attack ports and gas facilities on the 27th day of the holy month of Ramadan. The 27th day of Ramadan was Monday. The plans also included kidnapping foreigners.

"The plot involved using dozens of al Qaeda militants dressed in Yemeni army uniforms to storm the facilities on the night of the 27th of Ramadan," said Rajeh Badi, press adviser to Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa.

Muslims believe the 27th night of Ramadan is when the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.

The news from Yemen comes just days after the US temporarily shut down 19 of its diplomatic posts in the Middle East and Africa. Staff from the US and British embassies in Yemen have also been evacuated.

Meanwhile, apparent US drone strikes continue. Officials said Wednesday that a suspected US drone hit and killed seven suspected al Qaeda militants in southern Yemen, the fifth attack of this sort in the past two weeks.

The intelligence

A US intelligence official and a Mideast diplomat told the AP news agency that the closures of these diplomatic institutions were triggered by the interception of a secret message between al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri and Nasser al-Wahishi (pictured above), the leader of the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, about plans for a major attack.

The US refuses to confirm individual drone strikes in the region.

Yemeni officials, meanwhile, have been busy setting up checkpoints across the capital, searching cars and people. They have also surrounded foreign installations, government offices and the airport.

Government officials and military leaders have been told to remain vigilant.

Al Qaeda has been picking up momentum in Yemen. The terrorist group has bolstered its efforts there in the years since key Saudi operatives fled the country due to a major crackdown.

tm/slk (AFP, AP, Reuters)