Sana`a (Yemen): Security forces have arrested 14 suspected members of the terrorist network Al Qaeda in a massive crackdown on the group in the restive southern town of Loudar, the Interior Ministry said early Sunday.
"Fourteen suspected Al Qaeda affiliates have been captured during a combing operation to trace remnants of the terrorist elements into their dens, after the crushing defeat they suffered in Loudar," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said 10 suspects were captured during raids carried out in the mountainous town. Four others, including a leading figure in the group identified as Salah al-Dubani, have been arrested at checkpoints outside the town as they tried to flee, the ministry said.
Loudar is a lawless town of around 100,000 people in Abyan province, about 550 kilometres south of the capital Sana`a, and is believed to have been a hotbed of operatives from Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups.
The mountainous town has been the scene of an intensive police clampdown on Al Qaeda since Aug 21, a day after suspected members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) - a group linked to the global terrorist network - ambushed an armoured police vehicle, killing 11 police officers.
Militants from Al Qaeda-linked groups and other Islamist movements are believed to frequently take shelter in nearby mountains.
Authorities said police forces regained control of Loudar Aug 24.
The security sweep follows a string of attacks claimed by AQAP targeting security personnel in the last two months in southern Yemen.
Eighteen suspected members of the terrorist network were killed in clashes with security forces during the Loudar offensive, police said.
The central government in Sana`a, already facing a growing southern separatist insurgency and a Shiite rebellion in the north, has stepped up its crackdown on Al Qaeda in recent months, particularly in southern and eastern Yemen.
An impoverished country at the south-western tip of the Arabian peninsula, Yemen has come under immense pressure from the US and the West to fight Al Qaeda, after the resurgence of the group under AQAP.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was formed in January 2009 from the merger of al-Qaeda`s Yemeni and Saudi branches, after the Saudi group had been effectively crushed by the Saudi government, forcing its members to seek sanctuary in Yemen.
BDST: 1220 HRS, September 5, 2010