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Yemen arrests embassy bomb threat suspect

7/02/2010 - 19:02

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen has arrested a man suspected of threatening to bomb foreign embassies and assassinate Yemeni political and military leaders, state media reported on Sunday.

In early January, the United States, Britain and France temporarily closed their Yemen embassies to the public due to concern over possible militant attacks.

The 42-year-old man was detained in the capital Sanaa. The interior ministry said on its website he had in his possession a mobile phone containing speeches and songs of Yemen's northern Shi'ite rebels.

The West and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will take advantage of Yemen's instability to spread its operations to neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, and beyond. Yemen itself produces a small amount of oil.

The Yemen-based regional wing of the group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, claimed a failed bomb attack on a U.S.-bound plane in December.

Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, is also battling a rebellion to its north from rebels belonging to the minority Shi'ite Zaidi sect who complain of marginalisation.

Three tribesmen were killed on Sunday in a clash with police after a dispute broke out over government plans to build a camp in the tribe's areas north of Sanaa for refugees from the war with the Shi'ite rebels, tribal sources said.

The rebels said on their website on Sunday that Saudi fighter planes carried out three strikes on northern districts and fired more than 170 rockets and rounds of heavy artillery. The rebels said their forces had blocked attempts by government forces to advance on several fronts.

An anti-terror court began on Sunday the trial of Mohammed al-Maqaleh, editor of the opposition Socialist Party's website, on charges of collaborating with the Shi'ite rebels and publishing false reports.

Maqaleh was detained in September by plainclothes officers in what appeared to be an abduction. Colleagues said then they believed authorities objected to the website's coverage of the war with the rebels.

The government declined to comment on his whereabouts for weeks, drawing criticism from rights groups including Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"Authorities allowed a family visit for a half hour and he looked thinner," a relative of the journalist told Reuters.

On Saturday, Yemen said it had handed over a timetable to the northern rebels to implement the government's cease-fire terms.

The country is also struggling to contain simmering unrest from a southern secessionist movement.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and Raissa Kasolowsky; Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Firouz Sedarat; editing by Myra MacDonald)

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