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Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh Threatened By Al Qaeda

AHMED AL-HAJ   10/12/10 09:11 AM ET   AP

Yeman Al Qaeda Ali Abdullah Saleh
Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh

SAN'A, Yemen — Al-Qaida's offshoot in Yemen warned Tuesday it is setting up a "new army" to overthrow the country's president in response to his U.S.-backed counterterrorism campaign and said it would fill its ranks with snipers and bomb makers.

"Run for your life," the group's military chief warned President Ali Abdullah Saleh in an audio recording that surfaced on militant-affiliated websites.

The commander, Qassim al-Raimi, did not reveal the size of the new fighting force, but said its ranks were already overflowing with so many volunteers – including some from abroad – that many had to be turned away.

Yemen's al-Qaida-allied militants and other extremists have long sought to topple Saleh's government in response to its relationship with the United States, which is deeply concerned about al-Qaida's reinvigorated operation in Yemen.

The alliance of Saudi and Yemeni fighters known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which formed a year and a half ago in the largely lawless south, has pursued Saleh's government with a campaign of attacks on security forces and Western targets inside the country.

At the same time, it has sought to show it has global reach by claiming it was behind the failed attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner in December.

The U.S. responded by increasing its military assistance to Yemen this year, pledging $150 million for helicopters, planes and other equipment. American forces are also providing military training.

Al-Raimi, speaking under the nom de guerre Abu Hurira al-Sanani, said the group's fighters were "liberating territories from crusaders and apostate traitors."

He said President Saleh would meet the same destiny as Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf, who also lost popular support for cooperating with the U.S. in fighting al-Qaida's central leadership and the Taliban in northwest Pakistan. Musharraf stepped down in 2008 amid protests and after a heavy election defeat for his supporters.

"You fool, you are digging your own grave," al-Raimi said. "Run for your life, Ali, because Pervez perished."

The commander read off a list of attacks and assassinations of senior intelligence and counterterrorism officers, saying the group has effectively used snipers and explosives and that the two methods would be the new fighting force's main tactics.

On Monday, a pair of bombs detonated one after the other, killing two people and injuring 12 near a sports club in the port city of Aden. A day earlier, gunmen shot dead a policeman in the southern province of Abyan.

"Our war with him (Saleh) is a war of attrition and exhaustion to weaken the enemy, and it will be easy to eat him up," al-Raimi said.

The new force, the Aden-Abyan army, takes its name from two southern provinces. The same name was also used by a now-dissolved jihadi group active in the late 1990s.

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Filed by Adam J. Rose  |