Attention Turns to Yemen in Anti-Terror Fight


    This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

    Yemen is the poorest Arab nation. Poverty can help breed extremism -- al-Qaida is a growing concern for the Yemenis. But the government also faces an armed rebellion in the north and a separatist movement in the south.

    Yemeni anti-terrorist forces train near Sanaa this week
    Yemeni anti-terrorist forces train near Sanaa this week
    In Sanaa, fears of an al-Qaida attack led to temporary closures this week of the American, British and French embassies. Yemeni officials say they have increased protection of foreign interests in the capital. They have also sent thousands of troops to Arhab and other areas to battle the local al-Qaida group.

    Yemen also plays a part in the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. He is the man accused of trying to bomb an American plane with explosives in his underwear.

    A Yemeni deputy prime minister said Thursday that the twenty-three year old Nigerian met last year in Yemen with Anwar al-Awlaki. The American-born Muslim clergyman is accused of supporting al-Qaida.

    But the deputy prime minister said al-Qaida first recruited the young man in Britain when he was a student in London. The official also warned against foreign military intervention in Yemen, saying that could strengthen al-Qaida.

    Britain is organizing an international conference later this month to discuss the security problems. And the United States is expected to nearly double its seventy million dollars in security assistance to Yemen.

    Earlier this week, President Obama said no additional prisoners from Guantanamo Bay will be released to Yemen. The president wanted to close the American prison in Cuba this month. But the recent developments seem to have only made the issue more difficult.

    The failed attack on the plane happened December twenty-fifth, Christmas Day. Almost three hundred people were on the flight from Amsterdam. It was preparing to land in Detroit, Michigan. Passengers and crew restrained the man and put out the fire caused by a mixture of explosives.

    A drawing of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab facing charges in a federal courtroom in Detroit Friday
    A drawing of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab facing charges in a federal courtroom in Detroit
    He could face life in prison. He appeared in federal court in Detroit for the first time Friday. He did not answer the charges himself but his lawyers entered a plea of not guilty. Some people say the case should have been handled in the military justice system.

    On Thursday President Obama blamed the incident on what he called a "systemic failure across organizations and agencies."

    "Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence," he said, "this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had."

    He is ordering steps to improve airport security and the handling of intelligence information. But he admitted there is no perfect solution. "As we develop new screening technologies and procedures," he said, "our adversaries will seek new ways to evade them."

    Last week, the Central Intelligence Agency suffered a setback in its efforts against al-Qaida. A suicide bombing at a C.I.A. base in Afghanistan killed seven Americans and a Jordanian intelligence officer. The bomber was identified as a Jordanian doctor who was supposed to be informing on the terrorist group.

    And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.