Yemen’s Al-Qaeda arm losing ability to carry out attacks abroad: KSA

Smoke and fire billow during a controlled explosion by Yemeni experts to destroy explosives and mines laid by Houthi rebels in the southern city of Aden. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2017
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Yemen’s Al-Qaeda arm losing ability to carry out attacks abroad: KSA

PARIS: Al Qaeda’s Yemeni arm is losing its ability to export militancy overseas after sustained military pressure on its operations, and Daesh and Shiite militants are instead Riyadh’s main internal concern, Saudi Arabian officials said on Wednesday.
The US and Britain on Tuesday announced new restrictions on carry-on electronic devices on planes from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa in response to unspecified security threats.
The Saudi Interior Ministry’s chief security spokesman Mansour Al-Turki told reporters in Paris that he had no specific information on what prompted the new curbs — which also affect Saudi Arabian Airlines — but he suggested there may be a link to Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
“The US has said they raided Al-Qaeda people in Yemen and they were able to gather some information, but I don’t know whether they found something linked to this,” he said.
Asked whether they believed Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had the capacity to project operations overseas with innovative bomb designs, including embedding them inside computers, however, the officials said the group had been severely constrained by fighting on multiple fronts.
“They don’t have the power to export their activities,” said Abdullah Al-Shehri, a senior counter-terrorism official from the Interior Ministry.
“It is fighting Islamic State (Daesh), which is trying to take its place. It is not getting new fighters and after the (Saudi-led) Desert Storm operation it is also fighting the legitimate government and the Houthi (rebels),” he said.
AQAP has in the past plotted to down US airliners and claimed responsibility for the 2015 attacks on the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. It also has boasted of having one of the world’s most feared bomb makers, Ibrahim Hassan Al-Asiri. The US estimates it has 2,000 to 3,000 fighters.
Al-Turki said Riyadh considered the threat of an attack from Daesh on its soil to be greater given that some 3,500 Saudis had traveled to join the group in Syria and Iraq. Of those, 1,500 remain in the conflict zone with the rest killed.
“(Al-) Qaeda actually has not been involved in any real kind of terrorism-related incident in Saudi Arabia for three years,” he said. “Most of the incidents came from Daesh or militant groups related to Shiites in the eastern province.”
Al-Turki is leading a delegation of Interior Ministry and counter-terrorism officials in Paris to discuss wider cooperation between the two allies.
The talks have also focused on ways to prevent attacks including with a new digital system implemented in the Kingdom to identify potential lone wolf militants radicalized on social media.


Netanyahu visits southern region following Gaza escalation

Updated 23 min 40 sec ago
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Netanyahu visits southern region following Gaza escalation

  • Netanyahu’s visit comes a day after an informal cease-fire took hold to end 24 hours of intense fighting
  • Netanyahu says Hamas will face a “wall of steel” if it keeps up its aggression against Israel

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with community leaders of southern Israeli towns bordering Gaza, warning that Israel is engaged in a “lengthy battle.”
Netanyahu’s visit on Monday comes a day after an informal cease-fire took hold to end 24 hours of intense fighting with Gaza’s Hamas militants that had threatened to devolve into all-out war.
Israel pounded Hamas targets in its most massive bombardment since the 2014 war, while militants fired dozens of rockets toward Israel that halted daily life in the area.
Netanyahu said he’s ordered the military to put an end to Gaza’s campaign of sending incendiary kites and balloons across the border to target Israeli farms and nature reserves.
He says Hamas will face a “wall of steel” if it keeps up its aggression against Israel.