The Pentagon is stepping up the hunt for al-Qaida fighters in Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, which remains a terrorist hornets’ nest despite efforts of US and Yemeni authorities over the past two years.
The US defence department has sent a team to the remote, rugged Middle East country to recommend ways the United States can help local forces catch al-Qaida fighters, including some who fled the US war in Afghanistan, and their supporters, officials said.
Little visible progress against terrorists has been made in Yemen in recent months, although the CIA has offered intelligence; the FBI turned over a list in February of al-Qaida network suspects believed in Yemen; and US special forces have trained local forces in counter-terror tactics for some weeks this summer.
“In Yemen we’re still at an early stage,” deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz said.
“We’re hopeful that they will become more energetic in pursuing some very dangerous people whom we know are in remote parts of that country,” he said in an interview with AP Radio and AP Television News.
Yemen’s place in the line-up of terrorist havens was illustrated again on Friday, when Pakistani authorities said they had captured 10 alleged members of al-Qaida, at least eight of them Yemenis, including suspected September 11 operative Ramzi Binalshibh.
Although the US government will not talk about the nationalities of the hundreds of prisoners at its Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, jail for terror suspects, other sources have said that about 70 are Yemenis.
Officials predict fighting terrorism in Yemen will continue to be a slow and bloody business.