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Yemen arrests suspected female al-Qaida militants

November 20, 2013

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Clashes between suspected al-Qaida militants, including women, and Yemeni troops left one officer, three soldiers, and at least two militants dead in the country’s south, security officials said Wednesday. The raid ended with the arrest of a number of militants, including several women.

The officials said a raid on two houses in the Hadramwat province sparked clashes that lasted for over an hour. They said suspected female militants in one of the houses in the city of al-Shahr fired assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at the military force during the fighting.

The officials said several women and children and at least one male militant were arrested at the end of the raid, but did not give an exact number of those arrested. Officials said the women are believed to be Saudi nationals, who make up a large part of the militant group.

The officials said the women were transferred to Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, for further interrogation.

It is not usual for female al-Qaida fighters to operate in Yemen, although they may help the group in logistics. However, officials said some female al-Qaida suspects escaped from Saudi Arabia to Yemen recently. It is not immediately clear if they were among those arrested Wednesday.

Officials said male militants on motorcycles had also joined the fight. One officer and three soldiers and at least two male militants, including a Saudi, were killed in the clashes.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

Yemen is fighting a war against al-Qaida’s local branch, which Washington considers one of the world’s most dangerous offshoots of the terror network.

The branch, also known as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, regularly strikes security and military targets with drive-by shootings, suicide bombings and other attacks.

Also on Wednesday, a journalist, known to be a supporter of the country’s northern rebels, survived an attempt on his life in the capital. The car of journalist Mohammed al-Emad who runs the Hawiyya, or Identity newspaper, was booby-trapped with an explosive device that went off as he approached it, a security official said. Al-Emad was wounded in the face and legs, and two bystanders were also hurt, the official said.

The northern Hawthi rebels, who belong to an offshoot of Shiite Islam, are at odds with the country’s ultraconservative Sunni Salafi movement in the north. Clashes between them in recent weeks have claimed the lives of at least a hundred, and a fragile cease-fire was negotiated by the government.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack on al-Emad.

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