French and British embassies reopen in Yemen

SANAA: The French embassy in Sanaa reopened Wednesday after being closed for two days due to the threat of an Al-Qaida attack, a diplomat at the mission said.

The British embassy in the Yemeni capital also reopened, but its consular services remained closed, according to a statement on its website.

The US embassy had reopened Tuesday after a two-day closure prompted by Al-Qaida threats saying on its website that Yemeni security forces had addressed a “specific area of concern” in the north of the capital Sanaa on Monday, AFP reported.

It was apparently referring to a security operation Yemeni police conducted Monday in the area of Arhab, 40 kilometres north of Sanaa, where two suspected members of Al-Qaida were killed and three others wounded.

Warnings of a possible Al-Qaida attack had led Washington to close its embassy in Sanaa on Sunday. The British and French authorities followed suit, while Japan suspended consular services at its embassy.

Yemen’s interior ministry said Tuesday all foreign missions and interests were “safe,” pointing out it has reinforced security measures around embassies and the residences of foreigners.

The ministry also said it arrested five “terrorist elements” during the past two days near Sanaa, but gave no details.

Long-standing concerns that Yemen, a country on the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, has become a haven for Islamic terror groups were thrown into sharp focus when a Nigerian man allegedly trained in Yemen was charged with trying to blow up a US-bound jet.

The botched Christmas Day attack was claimed by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which also urged attacks on Western interests in Yemen.

The would-be bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, reportedly confessed to being trained by an Al-Qaida bombmaker in Yemen for the suicide mission on the Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Explosives allegedly sewn into the man’s underwear failed to detonate, and passengers jumped on him.

US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that US intelligence missed “red flags” in the Arabian peninsula that could have disrupted the plot to blow up the US-bound plane, vowing to stop future lapses.

“It is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analysed or fully leveraged,” Obama said in a terse televised statement. “That’s not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it.”

He was speaking after meeting US spy chiefs and top national security aides at the White House to discuss two probes into the attempt to blow up the airliner as it approached Detroit.

“The bottom line is this — the US government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack, but our intelligence community failed to connect those dots,” Obama said.

“When a suspected terrorist is able to board a plane with explosives on Christmas Day, the system has failed in a potentially disastrous way,” he said.

“It’s my responsibility to find out why, and to correct that failure so that we can prevent such attacks in the future.”

US intelligence missed other “red flags” that Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was plotting to attack US targets both in Yemen and the United States itself, he said, adding that he had information that it was working with Abdulmutallab.

The United States has unleashed a barrage of measures to stop would-be attackers riding planes into the country, overhauling its terror watchlists and adding dozens more suspects to “no-fly” lists.

Further boosting security measures, all travellers coming from or via 14 “terror linked” countries, among them Yemen, will have to undergo compulsory enhanced screening.

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