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Yemen aims to halt next generation of terrorists

The country wants to offer 'retraining' for returning Guantánamo detainees. It also hopes to boost dialogue with religious leaders. Human rights groups are skeptical.

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Seven years after Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared his country an ally in the US war on terror, two models of religious dialogue – one grass-roots and the other authorized at the highest echelons of Yemen's government – are combating the rise of radicalism, though with varying degrees of success.

"We make sure [convicted terrorists] know the dangers involved in terrorism, their misunderstanding of Islamic teachings in regards to terrorism and the killing of innocents," says Minister of Foreign Affairs Abubaker Al-Qirbi in an interview.

Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, has a history of being a safe haven for Islamist militants. Although a top financier for Al Qaeda was reportedly arrested in the country over the weekend, the terror network has increased its visibility in Yemen, carrying out a number of fatal attacks against foreigners and foreign institutions in the past few years, including an attack on the US Embassy in Sanaa in September 2008.

On Sunday, nine foreigners, including a Briton, a South Korean, and a German, were kidnapped by Shiite rebels in northern Yemen, according to news reports.

As Yemen attempts to handle the crisis of the moment, the country looks to its religious dialogue efforts as a possible counter-balance to the religious extremism that fuels kidnapping and Al Qaeda. Human rights activists caution that the programs, however, don't always translate into practical transformation.


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