30 foreigners rounded up in Yemen anti-Qaeda sweep: official

6th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Yemeni security forces have arrested more than 30 foreign nationals on suspicion of having links with Al-Qaeda, among them three Frenchmen, an American and a Briton, a security official said on Sunday.

"Some of them were arrested on suspicion of belonging to Al-Qaeda while others were arrested according to lists provided to Yemen security forces by US intelligence," the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Most of those arrested came to Yemen to study Arabic in the same school where Nigerian Omar Farouk had studied," the official said.

He was referring to Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly tried to blow up a US airliner over Detroit on Christmas day and who had studied in the Sanaa Institute for the Arabic Language, in the Yemeni capital's old city.

"During the month of May, a number of foreigners were arrested, including one Frenchman, one American, one Briton, two Malaysians (and) five Nigerians," the official said.

"There are a number of foreigners who were arrested prior to May," including two French nationals arrested in April, he added.

The source provided details on one of the French nationals, Jeremy Johnny Witter, whom he said was arrested in May.

Witter, born in 1986 and who comes from Orsay, near Paris, arrived in Yemen to study Arabic at the Sanaa Institute in November 2009, after having lived in Egypt for seven years, the official said.

Yemen is the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and has witnessed several attacks claimed by the group on foreign missions, tourist sites and oil installations.

Al-Qaeda has suffered setbacks amid US pressure on the government to crack down. But its presence threatens to turn Yemen into a base for training and plotting attacks, a senior US counter-terrorism official said in September.

© 2010 AFP

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