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Yemen plot foiled: Al Qaeda threat targets energy infrastructure

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Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

(Read caption) Yemen plot foiled: A police trooper walks outside the departure lounge Sanaa International Airport Wednesday in Yemen. Officials say Al Qaeda was planning to attack energy infrastructure in Yemen.

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Ever since civil unrest led to the toppling of President Ali Abdullah Salehas in 2011, Yemen has struggled to contain the rise of Islamic militants operating within its borders, even with the help of the US military.

US, British, and French embassies were closed recently, after a message was intercepted on the 4th of August from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and successor to Osama bin Laden, to Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of al-Qaeda in Yemen, mentioning a planned attack that was to happen shortly.

It seems as though that attack may have now been foiled, after Yemen’s government has just released that it uncovered an al-Qaeda attack to seize various facilities in the dangerous southwestern province of Hadramut. (Related article: Is Oil the Next Front in Al-Qaida's War?)

Rajeh Badi, advisor to Prime Minister Mohamed Salem Basindwah, told Bloomberg that the militants were prevented from carrying out their plot to attack the al-Dhabah oil export terminal, and the LNG facility in Shabwah province, as well as the planned seizure of the port city of Mukalla in Hadramut. 

Badi stated that “concerns remain high about other plots and plans by al-Qaeda,” who are targeting Saudi Arabian and Western targets.

The US, in response to the new threats posed by al-Qaeda, have increased their attacks via missle-armed drone aircraft; reporting that at least seven militants died during a strike in Shabwah on Wednesday, and four more in the Marib province on Tuesday. (Related article: Iran Gets Creative Over Energy Payments from Turkey and Pakistan)

Islamic militants have carried out a stream of attacks against energy infrastructure around Yemen, including natural gas and oil pipelines, and have, in this way, managed to slow the economic recovery of the country.

Theodore Karasik, the director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, told Bloomberg that “the situation in Yemen is continuously bad because of the inability of the central government to control any part of the country. Within al-Qaeda military doctrine, attacking energy infrastructure, such as pipelines or ports, is seen as a potent tool. It is a major part of their doctrine.”

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