Prince Khalid bin Sultan inspects army units on border strip with Yemen

Thousands of Yemeni soldiers track down rebels, Al-Qaeda groups

Yemeni foreign minister says striking Al-Qaeda is being undertaken by Yemeni army through intelligence cooperation with countries in region

London calls for international conf. to discuss means to eliminate extremism in Yemen

Clinton says Yemen instability threatens region world

Prince Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Assistant Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General for Military Affairs paid an inspection tour of the Armed Forces in Jazan region on the Southern Borders.

The Prince was accompanied by Prince Major General Khalid bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Commander of Land Forces and a number of commanders and officers.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan conveyed to the units of the Armed Forces the greetings of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces and Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, stressing that the Saudi leadership has been keen on not intervention into others' internal affairs and does not allow anyone to intervene into its affairs.

He expressed his great pride in the remarkable victories achieved by the brave Armed Forces.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has carried out a series of lethal air raids across the border with Yemen, killing 16 civilians and wounding 19 others, Yemen's Shiite rebels said on Monday.

In one of 25 raids launched on Monday, six civilians were killed and six others were wounded, women and children among them, according to a statement issued by the rebels, who Riyadh has been battling since early November.

Ten other civilians were killed in a market hit by one of the air raids carried out on Sunday, the rebels said in a separate statement posted on their website.

The Shiite rebels, also known as Zaidis, have said they would withdraw from Saudi territory if Riyadh halts attacks on their fighters, launched after the kingdom accused them of killing a border guard and occupying two Saudi villages.

A rebel spokesman said later that the insurgents repelled two ground attacks that Yemeni and Saudi forces launched on Monday against their positions near the Harf Sufyan region of Omran province, north of Sana’a.

"The attack was repulsed and five army tanks were destroyed," the spokesman told AFP, adding Saudi troops also stormed Jebel Rumaih, on the mountainous border, "under cover of intense artillery."

"Again the attack failed," said the spokesman who denounced the ongoing military operations despite the rebels' overtures for peace.

The rebels first rose up in 2004. The Yemeni government launched a major offensive in August to try to end the uprising. Aid groups say more than 150,000 people have been driven from their homes.

Yemeni security forces have captured three al Qaeda members suspected of plotting attacks on the US, British and other embassies in the capital, officials said.

The detentions came after the country, in danger of becoming a new terror safe haven, sent thousands of troops into tribal areas in the south and east to hunt down militants who launched the attempted Christmas Day airline bomb plot in Detroit from the southern Arabian state.

The anti-terror campaign has been prompted by huge international pressure on the Yemeni government, particularly from Washington, but Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, the Yemeni foreign minister, said the government opposed any direct US or foreign intervention.

“There is a lot of sensitivity about foreign troops coming to Yemeni territory,” he said, reflecting the anti-US sentiment in this staunchly Islamic, tribal country. “Direct intervention complicates things,” he said.

The United States and Britain are however training special anti-terrorism troops from the Yemeni security forces to counter the growing al Qaeda threat.

The army said it had captured the three militants while they being treated in hospital for wounds sustained in a gun battle two days earlier, when the army raided a tribal area of Arhab, just north of the capital Sana’a, to capture local Aqeada commander Nazeeh al-Hanaq. He escaped, but two of his bodyguards, believed to be his son and nephew, were killed in the clashes.

As well as the wounded militants, the army said it had arrested four people suspected of transporting them to the hospital and hiding them there.

The US and British embassies, as well as several other foreign missions, closed for two days because of the terrorist threat, but had reopened again to the public after the raids.

A Western diplomat told The Times that Ali Abdullah Saleh, the longstanding Yemeni president, appeared to be finally cracking down on terrorists after years of an uneasy accommodation with the Islamic extremists.

“Since December there has been a change in the government’s approach to al Qaeda,” said the diplomat, who asked not to be named. Part of the change has come from the terror network itself, which had until recently abided by a tacit agreement that it would not pursue targets in Yemen if the government did not interfere with them. But a new, more radical generation has emerged in recent years that has attacked security forces and appears keen to bring the regime down.

The Western diplomat said urgent action was needed by the Yemeni government to fight the terrorists and by the international community to improve development in the Middle East’s poorest country.

“The clock is ticking and the consequences to all of us if this place goes wrong are very serious,” he said. Echoing those words in the United States, Senator Joe Lieberman, who visited Yemen in August, said an American working in there told him that "Iraq was yesterday's war. Afghanistan is today's war and if we do not act pre-emptively now, Yemen will be tomorrow's war."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Britain's call for a high-level international meeting in late January on the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, United Nations spokesperson Martin Nesirky said Monday.

Nesirky told a press briefing that during a phone call to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Monday morning, Ban indicated his support for the counter-terrorism conference to take place in London on Jan. 28.

The secretary-general expressed concern over al-Qaeda, and the humanitarian situation, said Nesirky.

Ban will be in Britain on Jan. 28, but he is scheduled to attend the international conference on Afghanistan, which happens to coincide on the same date, said Nesirky, who added that the United Nations will be represented at the Yemen conference.

The impoverished Gulf state has made headlines in recent weeks. On Christmas Day, a 23-year old Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, failed to blow up a U.S. airliner over Detroit after receiving training in Yemen.

The Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed credit for the attack on Dec. 25. Over the past decade, al-Qaeda has established its presence in the country's south, launching attacks against Western targets.

The rugged terrain of the Arabian peninsula's tip is ideal for hide-outs and training sites. Yemen's Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi has said there could be up to 300 al-Qaeda militants in his country.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia fears that militant extremists could gain a permanent foothold in Yemen, which would then potentially disrupt the Gulf of Aden, home of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Al-Qaeda has been trying to overthrow the Saudi government, which it sees as illegitimate protectors of Islam's holiest sites.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Monday that instability in Yemen, where the United States has closed its embassy over fears of an Al-Qaeda strike, threatens regional stability.

Word of a possible attack by the fundamentalist group prompted Washington to close its embassy in the Yemeni capital on Sunday. The British and French authorities followed suit, while Japan suspended consular services at its embassy.

"The instability in Yemen is a threat to regional stability and even global stability," Clinton told reporters following talks with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani.

"And certainly, we know that this is a difficult set of challenges, but they have to be addressed."

She noted that Washington was working closely with its allies to chart "the best way forward" to address the security concerns.

The United States will reopen its embassy in Yemen "when the conditions permit," the chief US diplomat added, noting security was under constant review.

Long-standing concerns that Yemen has become a haven for Islamic terror groups were thrown into sharp relief when a Nigerian man allegedly trained in Yemen was charged with trying to blow up a US airliner on December 25.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, reportedly confessed to being trained by an Al-Qaeda bombmaker in Yemen for his alleged mission to blow up the plane as it came into land in Detroit, sparking a major international security scare.

President Barack Obama has revealed that Abdulmutallab spent time in Yemen during the summer where he was allegedly in contact with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Clinton noted the State Department was reviewing whether to revise procedures that allowed Abdulmutallab to board the Amsterdam-Detroit flight.

"Based on what we know now, the State Department fully complied with the requirements set forth in the inter-agency process as to what should be done when information about a potential threat is known," she said.

"But we're looking to see whether those procedures need to be changed, upgraded."

Washington has noted that Abdulmutallab, the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker, was added to a watchlist of some 550,000 names last month after his father warned US officials in Abuja about his son's increasing radicalism.

But he was not added to the no-fly list, meaning he was able to use his multiple-entry, two-year visa obtained from the US embassy in London in June 2008 to fly from Lagos to Amsterdam, then on to Detroit on Christmas Day.