SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni authorities have uncovered at least 13 al-Qaida plots to target foreign diplomats, embassies and senior military and government officials in the capital of Sanaa and other cities, a high ranking security official said Sunday.
The official says authorities were tipped off by captured al-Qaida members. He says they gave information about sleeper cells plotting a string of assassinations, bombings and abductions of foreign diplomats in the capital, as well as cities in troubled southern Yemen. He said Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi met top security officials to discuss the new information.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.
Al-Qaida is trying to hit back after a two-month Yemeni military offensive drove the militants out of several main strongholds in the south. Al-Qaida took advantage of internal turmoil and a security vacuum to capture parts of southern Yemen during last year's uprising, when Yemenis took to the streets demanding ouster of longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Since he took power in February, Hadi has worked on purging the Yemeni army of Saleh loyalists and regime members. At the same time he ordered an all-out offensive against al-Qaida in the south.
On Sunday, al-Qaida tried to seize the small town of al-Awabel in al-Dhali province, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of the southern port of Aden, according to military officials. One soldier and one militant were killed in the fighting as troops backed by tribal gunmen repelled the militant assault. Nine al-Qaida-linked militants were captured.
The Yemeni offensive in the south is supported by U.S. military advisers from a command center manned by dozens of U.S. troops in the al-Annad air base near Abyan province, the main conflict zone.
The U.S. considers al-Qaida's Yemen branch, known as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, to be the terror network's most dangerous offshoot.
Al-Qaida in Yemen has been blamed for directing a string of unsuccessful bomb plots against the U.S. Two months ago, CIA thwarted a plot to down a U.S.-bound airliner using a new, sophisticated explosive to be hidden in the bomber's underwear. The planned bomber was actually a double agent who turned the device over to the U.S. government.