Yemeni security forces have been put on high alert amid warnings of an imminent attack by al-Qaeda in Sana’a, as the US and Britain withdrew embassy staff and urged their citizens to leave the country.
BBC Arabic quoted a Yemeni security source as saying “extraordinary and unprecedented” security measures had been taken, with armoured vehicles deployed at the presidential palace and other sensitive government and foreign installations in Yemen’s capital.
Dozens of al-Qaeda operatives were said to have streamed into Sana’a in the last few days, apparently to take part in a terrorist attack, the BBC said. The Yemeni claim could not be independently confirmed.
Hours earlier, Yemeni tribal sources and unnamed officials reported two US drone strikes that killed four al-Qaeda operatives in Marib province northeast of Sana’a, including a senior commander who was named by al-Jazeera as Salah al-Jumati.
Last month, the second in command of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Said al-Shehri, was also killed in a US drone strike.
The New York Times reported that US intelligence services had intercepted communications between Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s overall leader, and the Yemeni head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Nasser al-Wuhayshi.
The paper quoted counter-terrorism officials as saying that Mr. Zawahri had recently elevated Mr. Wuhayshi to be the new “general manager” of the terrorist network, making him the second most important man in the organization.
In London the foreign office said UK embassy staff had been temporarily withdrawn. It also advised against all travel to the country.
A US defense department spokesman said the American airforce had transported state department personnel out of Sanaa early yesterday. “The US department of defense continues to have personnel on the ground in Yemen to support the US state department and monitor the security situation,” said George Little