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According to new reports, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of an act of “direct military aggression” by supplying missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

This “may be considered an act of war”, Saudi Arabia state media quoted the crown prince as telling UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in a phone conversation.

On November 4, a ballistic missile was intercepted near Riyadh.

Iran has denied arming the Houthi movement, which is fighting a Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government.

On November 6, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Saudi Arabia’s “wars of aggression” and “regional bullying” were threatening the Middle East.

Image source Wikimedia

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Houthi-aligned media reported that the rebels had fired a Burkan H2 ballistic missile at King Khaled International Airport, which is about 530 miles from the Yemeni border and 7 miles north-east of Riyadh, on November 4.

Saudi media reported that missile defenses intercepted the missile in flight, but that some missile fragments fell inside the airport area. No casualties were reported.

Human Rights Watch said the launch of an indiscriminate missile at a predominantly civilian airport was an apparent war crime.

On November 7, the official Saudi Press Agency (SAP) reported that in his telephone call with Prince Mohammed, Boris Johnson had “expressed his condemnation of launching a ballistic missile by Houthi coup militias” and affirmed “Britain’s stand with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in confronting security threats”.

“For his part, the crown prince stressed that the involvement of the Iranian regime in supplying its Houthi militias with missiles is considered a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime and may be considered an act of war against the kingdom,” it added.

On November 6, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN that Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, an Iranian proxy, was also involved.

“It was an Iranian missile launched by Hezbollah from territory occupied by the Houthis in Yemen,” he said.

Cyclone Chapala has hit the Yemeni mainland bringing hurricane-force winds, heavy rain and powerful waves.

Photos and videos posted online showed water pouring through the streets of the southern coastal city of Mukalla.

Mukalla is controlled by al-Qaeda and correspondents say it is ill-equipped to deal with a disaster.

Earlier, Cyclone Chapala hit the remote Yemeni island of Socotra, killing at least one person.

Many residents there took shelter in schools and caves.

Chapala is believed to be the most powerful storm that Yemen has seen in decades.Cyclone Chapala Yemen

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization described the cyclone as “extremely severe”, and said that sea conditions around the centre of the storm were “phenomenal”.

On November 2, the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) reported that Chapala was generating gusts of up to 150mph, equivalent to a category 4 hurricane.

The JTWC said Chapala would begin to weaken as dry air emanating from the Arabian Peninsula eroded the storm system, and that it would rapidly decay after landfall mainly due to the interaction with the rugged and dry Yemeni terrain.

Cyclone Chapala could nevertheless deluge parts of the country with up to 20in of rain in two days – 10 times the annual average.

Socotra is situated 230 miles south of the coast of Yemen in the Arabian Sea, to the east of Somalia.

It is home to about 50,000 people, who speak their own language, and hundreds of exotic plant species found nowhere else on earth, including dragon’s blood trees.

The mayor of Hadibu, Salem Zaher, told the AFP news agency that Chapala had damaged more than 80 houses and left hundreds of people needing hospital treatment.

More than 1,000 families had been evacuated and resettled in schools and camps inland before the storm hit, he added.

Residents of Mukalla, which has been controlled by a tribal council and jihadist militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) since April, meanwhile expressed concern about local preparations for when Chapala made landfall.

Cyclone Chapala, a rare tropical storm, has hit the remote Yemeni island of Socotra, killing at least one person before heading towards the mainland.

Many residents took shelter in schools and caves as Chapala brought hurricane-force winds, heavy rain and powerful waves to the island.

Photos and videos posted online showed water flowing through the streets of the provincial capital, Hadibu.

It is believed to be the most powerful storm that Yemen has seen in decades.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization described the cyclone as “extremely severe”, and said that sea conditions around the centre of the storm were “phenomenal”.

On November 2, the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre reported that Chapala was generating gusts of up to 150mph, equivalent to a category 4 hurricane.Cyclone Chapala Yemen

Gusts of up to 100 mph are forecast for when the storm makes landfall just west of the city of Mukalla, on the south coast of the Yemeni mainland, on November 3.

The cyclone could deluge parts of the country with up to 20in of rain in two days – 10 times the annual average.

Socotra is situated 230 miles south of the coast of Yemen in the Arabian Sea, to the east of Somalia.

It is home to about 50,000 people, who speak their own language, and hundreds of exotic plant species found nowhere else on earth, including dragon’s blood trees.

The mayor of Hadibu, Salem Zaher, told the AFP news agency that Chapala had damaged more than 80 houses and left hundreds of people needing hospital treatment.

More than 1,000 families had been evacuated and resettled in schools and camps inland before the storm hit, he added.

Residents of Mukalla, which has been controlled by a tribal council and jihadist militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) since April, meanwhile expressed concern about local preparations for when Chapala made landfall.

Top al-Qaeda commander Nasser al-Wuhayshi has been killed in a US drone strike in Yemen, the AQAP group confirmed.

Nasser al-Wuhayshi’s death was announced by the AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) in an online video, in which it said two other fighters had also died.

Nasser al-Wuhayshi was seen as al-Qaeda’s second-in-command and was a former private secretary to Osama bin Laden.

His successor was named in the video as military chief Qasim al-Raymi.Top al-Qaeda commander Nasser al-Wuhayshi killed in a US drone strike in Yemen

The Yemeni news group al-Masdar Online has previously reported that Nasser al-Wuhayshi was killed in an attack in Hadramawt province on June 12.

“We in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula mourn to our Muslim nation… that Abu Baseer Nasser bin Abdul Karim al-Wuhayshi, God rest his soul, passed away in an American strike which targeted him along with two of his mujahideen brothers, may God rest their souls,” Khaled Batarfi, a senior member of the group, was quoted as saying on the video.

The Pentagon said it would not comment.

But it previously said that if the death were confirmed it would be the biggest strike on al-Qaeda since Bin Laden’s death in Pakistani in 2011.

The US State Department offered a $10 million reward for anyone who could help bring Nasser al-Wuhayshi to justice.

It said he was “responsible for approving targets, recruiting new members, allocating resources to training and attack planning, and tasking others to carry out attacks”.

Nasser al-Wuhayshi became head of AQAP when the Yemeni and Saudi branches of al-Qaeda merged in 2009.

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Oil prices have reached a four-and-a-half month high on April 27 amid concerns over disruption to supplies from the Middle East.

Brent crude oil is at $65.37 per barrel and has gained around $9 since last month.

A slowdown in US shale oil production and the conflict in Yemen have been cited as the main reasons for the rise in the oil price in recent weeks.Oil prices April 2015

It comes as BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil are expected to report sharp falls in Q1 2015 earnings this week.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said: “Overall we are in an upwards trend and we do appear to have found a short-term base. There’s a good chance we could see $70 a barrel [for Brent] over the course of the next month or so.”

While Yemen itself is not among the biggest oil producers in the Middle East, Gulf producers ship oil along the Gulf of Aden on Yemen’s southern coast and through the narrow straits of Bab el-Mandeb, between Yemen and Djibouti.

As a result fighting in the region could create log jams in delivery.

Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has left his refuge in Aden under Saudi protection and arrived in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, officials say, as a Saudi-led coalition continues to launch air strikes against Shia Houthi rebels.

It is the first confirmation of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s whereabouts since March 25, when he fled rebel forces in the city of Aden.

The officials say he will go to Egypt for an Arab league summit on March 28.

The Saudi authorities began air strikes in Yemen on Wednesday night, a step Iran called “dangerous”.

During the second night of raids warplanes again targeted rebel positions in Yemen’s capital Sanaa and an air base near the southern port city of Aden.

Reports say there were civilian casualties.

Clashes were also reported in Aden between troops loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and Houthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia says it is “defending the legitimate government” of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi gets Saudi refuge

Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi took refuge in Aden last month after fleeing Sanaa, where he had been under house arrest since the Houthis took full control of the capital in January.

On March 27, a Saudi official said he had travelled to Riyadh, but would attend the two-day Arab summit in Egypt as the “legitimate” Yemeni president.

The Saudi ambassador to the US, Adel al-Jubair, said the first wave of airstrikes over targets in Yemen “went extremely well and with no collateral damage”.

He said this was “just the beginning of the campaign” which would carry on until “wisdom prevails” among the Houthi rebels.

Sources say the kingdom would consider sending troops to protect the government if it were to re-assemble in Aden in the future.

Reports said Saudi Arabia was using 100 warplanes in the operation, and its allies would contribute dozens more.

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported that the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan were sending aircraft, while Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Pakistan were ready to take part in any ground offensive targeting the Houthis.

The US said it was providing “logistical and intelligence support”.

However, a Houthi official warned the coalition that it risked provoking a wider war.

Shia power Iran, which Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia accuses of backing the rebels, also demanded an immediate halt to the strikes, which it said violated Yemen’s sovereignty.

Turkey has accused Iran of trying to dominate the region.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he supported the operation against the Houthis, adding Iran’s stance had begun “annoying us, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries”.

“This is really not tolerable and Iran has to see this,” he said.

A conflict that pulls in regional powers could disrupt global oil supplies, and the price of Brent crude rose almost 6% after the strikes began.

Media reports said at least 13 civilians were killed in Sanaa during the first day of the air strikes, and 18 people were killed in clashes between rebel fighters and soldiers and militiamen loyal to Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in southern Yemen.

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Oil prices rose by almost 6% after Saudi Arabia and its allies launched air strikes on Houthi rebel targets in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest crude exporter.

The move has raised concerns that the conflict could spread in the oil-rich Middle East and possibly disrupt supplies from the region.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures, the US benchmark, rallied to about $51 a barrel before falling back.

Brent crude climbed to $59.71 a barrel, but has since dipped to $56.50.

Pressure on the oil price eased slightly as it became clear there was no immediate threat to Middle East oil shipments. However, fears remain that Iran could be drawn into the conflict.Oil prices surge after Saudi Arabia and allies launch air strikes on Houthi fighters in Yemen

Yemen is located along an important international shipping route for global energy producers. But the country is sliding towards civil war.

Houthi rebels receiving support from Iran have marched on the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, where Yemen’s President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi took refuge after he was forced him to flee the capital, Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia, supported by regional allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait, launched airstrikes on Thursday aimed at halting the rebel advance.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are both members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the group that produces about 40% of the world’s oil. Oil exports to Europe pass through the narrow Red Sea strait between the port of Aden and Djibouti.

However, the current glut in global oil stocks, built up in part thanks to US shale production and plentiful output from Russia and other producers, means there is unlikely to be an acute crisis in supply.

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The US is withdrawing its troops from al-Anad air base in Yemen because of increasing insecurity there, Yemeni sources say.

About 100 troops, including Special Forces commandos, are leaving the base near the southern city of al-Houta, the officials said.

Al-Houta was stormed by al-Qaeda fighters on March 20, although they were later driven out by the Yemeni army.

The US military has not confirmed the evacuation.

It comes a day after suicide bombers killed at least 137 people in the capital Sanaa. Militants allied to Islamic State (ISIS) said they carried out the attack.US troops evacuate al-Anad air base in Yemen

There are mounting tensions between various powerful, armed elements in Yemen, including Houthi rebels, al-Qaeda and ISIS.

US troops at al-Anad air base have been training Yemeni fighters to launch attacks against al-Qaeda operatives.

On March 20, al-Qaeda fighters took control of al-Houta, near to the airbase. But the militants were later driven back by the army.

The US closed its embassy in Sanaa in February after Houthi rebel forces took over the city.

Yemen is the base of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a powerful offshoot of the jihadist militant group.

ISIS is also gaining ground in Yemen, after setting up a base in the country in November.

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Former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has fled the capital, Sanaa, weeks after he was put under house arrest by Houthi rebels who forced him to resign.

Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is thought to have reached the main southern city of Aden.

It comes a day after rival parties agreed on the formation of a transitional council to govern the country.

Yemen has been in crisis since the takeover by the Houthis, a Shia group.

UN mediator Jamal Benomar announced the preliminary accord between feuding factions on Thursday and hailed it as “an important step”.Former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi flees Sanaa

Abd,Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s supporters in Aden have so far refused to recognize what they denounce as a political coup.

Last week, the governors of the provinces of Aden, Lahij and Mahra demanded the reinstatement of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and reaffirmed their support for Yemen becoming a federation of six regions.

Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa in September, before capturing the presidential palace and placing Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi under house arrest. He then quit his presidential post, saying he could not continue under such pressure.

The Houthis dissolved parliament and installed a five-member “presidential council” on February 6.

This sparked security concerns that saw several Arab and Western states close their embassies and remove diplomats.

Since overrunning Sanaa, the Houthis have expanded their control to coastal areas and regions south of the capital.

Their takeover was denounced as a coup by rival political factions and prompted mass protests, mainly from the country’s Sunni majority.

The Houthis have also faced fierce resistance from Sunni tribes and al-Qaeda militants.

A military base in southern Yemen has been seized by al-Qaeda linked fighters, militants and officials say.

The Ansar al-Sharia group said they set off a bomb at the base in the central town Bayhan before capturing soldiers.

The attack comes amid fears that Yemen is plunging into chaos after Shia rebels took over the capital.

Shia Houthis have been expanding south from their northern stronghold, prompting clashes with al-Qaeda in Yemen (AQAP) and other Sunni groups.

The UN has warned that Yemen is on the brink of civil war.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

The base is in Shabwa province, an al-Qaeda stronghold. It is reportedly home to more than 1,000 troops.

The militants captured heavy weaponry when they took the base, one official told the AFP news agency.

Tribal mediators were trying to convince the group to withdraw, the official added.

Last week, the Houthis dissolved parliament and announced the formation of an interim government.

The move was widely condemned, with critics calling the actions a “coup”.

The US, UK and France have said they are closing their embassies in Yemen due to the deteriorating security situation there.

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Yemen’s presidential residence in capital Sanaa has been attacked by Shia Houthi rebels.

President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi is inside the palace, reports suggest.

It came after the rebels reportedly overran the presidential palace in another party of the city.

Yemen, a key US ally in the fight against al-Qaeda in the region, has seen unrest for months. Shia Houthi militias overran Sanaa in September after moving out of their northern Yemen stronghold.

However, the presidential buildings of Sanaa have so far remained outside their control.

Information Minister Nadia al-Sakkaf announced on Twitter that the presidential residence had come under heavy shelling from armed forces positioned on rooftops nearby.Yemen presidential palace seized by Shia Houthi rebels

A unnamed Yemeni government official told Reuters news agency that clashes were under way at President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s residence, adding: “The president is in the residence and he is fine.”

Col. Saleh al-Jamalani, commander of the presidential guards, described the events as a “coup”.

He told the AP news agency that the rebels who swept into the presidential palace complex had been helped by insiders and were looting arm depots in the palace grounds.

The rebels abducted President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s chief of staff, Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, on January 17.

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Yemen president’s chief of staff Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak has been abducted by gunmen, officials have said.

Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak and two of his guards were kidnapped early on Saturday in the centre of the capital Sanaa.

Yemeni officials suspect Shia Houthi rebels, who control much of the capital, of being behind the abduction.Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak kidnapped

Yemen has been plagued by instability since mass protests forced former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to step down in 2011.

Scores of people have been killed in clashes between the Houthis and Sunni militants.

One source told Reuters Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak was kidnapped by the Houthis to stop him presenting a draft of the new constitution to a presidential meeting.

The rebels blocked Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak’s appointment as prime minister last year.

Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie have been killed by al-Qaeda militants in Yemen during a failed rescue bid.

The military operation on December 6 was carried out by joint US and Yemeni special forces in the southern, Shabwa region.

President Barack Obama condemned Luke Somers’s death as a “barbaric murder”

They were being held by militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regarded by the US as one of the deadliest offshoots of al-Qaeda.

The group is based in eastern Yemen and has built up support amid the unrest which has beset the impoverished country since the overthrow of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.

President Barack Obama said he authorized the raid to rescue the UK-born American photojournalist and other hostages held in the same location.

He said information had “indicated that Luke’s life was in imminent danger.”Luke Somers killed in Yemen

A number of militants were also killed in the operation.

“Terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice,” Barack Obama said.

A US official told the New York Times that Luke Somers was apparently shot by his captors as the raid unfolded and was badly wounded when the US forces reached him.

By the time he was flown to a US naval ship in the region, he had died from his injuries, the official was quoted as saying.

Luke Somers’ sister, Lucy Somers, told the Associated Press earlier that she had been notified by the FBI of his death.

“We ask that all of Luke’s family members be allowed to mourn in peace,” Lucy Somers told AP, speaking from London.

Meanwhile there are reports that Pierre Korkie was expected to be released on December 7.

Pierre Korkie was abducted with his wife Yolande in May 2013 in Yemen’s second city, Taiz.

Yolande Korkie was freed on January 2014 without ransom and returned to South Africa.

Luke Somers, 33, was kidnapped in Yemen in September 2013.

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US and Yemeni forces have launched a new military operation to rescue American hostage Luke Somers held by al-Qaeda militants, reports say.

Details of the bid to free UK-born journalist Luke Somers are unclear.

It comes as nine alleged al-Qaeda militants were reported to have died in a drone strike believed to have been carried out by the US in Yemen’s southern Shabwa province.

Yemen’s defense ministry confirmed a “major operation” was taking place in the region.

Luke Somers, who was abducted in Yemen in 2013, has appeared in a video appealing for help.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon confirmed that an attempt to rescue Luke Somers last month had failed.Luke Somers hostage in Yemen

There are conflicting reports about the outcome of the operation to free him on December 6.

Luke Somers, 33, worked as a journalist and photographer for local news organizations. His material appeared on international news outlets.

The video of Luke Somers released this week also shows a member of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) threatening to kill him unless unspecified demands are met.

AQAP is regarded by the US as one of the deadliest offshoots of al-Qaeda.

The group is based in eastern Yemen and has built up support amid the unrest which has beset the impoverished country since the overthrow of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.

Luke Somers’ family has appealed in a video to al-Qaeda militants in Yemen to “show mercy” and release him.

In the online statement, the mother of the UK-born American hostage, Paula Somers, says: “Please… give us an opportunity to see our Luke again.”

A man identifying himself as Luke Somers, who was abducted in 2013, appeared in a separate video on December 3, saying his life was in danger and asking for help.

The US has revealed it tried to rescue Luke Somers in November 2014.

“Regrettably, Luke was not present, though hostages of other nationalities were present and were rescued,” the National Security Council said on December 4.

In a video posted on YouTube, Luke Somers’ mother and brother said he was “only trying to do good things for the Yemeni population”.

“Luke is only a photojournalist and is not responsible for any actions the US government has taken,” his brother, Jordan, said.

Noting that her son “appears healthy” in his captors’ video, Paula Somers said: “We thank you for that.”Luke Somers hostage in Yemen

Luke Somers, 33, worked as a journalist and photographer for local news organizations and his material appeared on international news outlets.

In the video released on December 3, a member of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) threatens to kill Luke Somers unless unspecified demands are met.

In a statement afterwards, the White House said President Barack Obama had authorized a rescue operation to free Luke Somers and other hostages last month, but that he was not present at the time of the raid.

On November 25, US and Yemeni forces rescued six Yemenis, a Saudi and an Ethiopian being held by AQAP in an operation at a mountain cave in the remote Hajr al-Sayar district of Hadramawt province. Seven militants were reportedly killed.

AQAP’s threat to kill Luke Somers follows the murder of five Western hostages – including three Americans – since August by the Islamist militant group Islamic State, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq.

The Obama administration has been criticized for not paying ransoms, not allowing hostage families to speak out and not taking opportunities to negotiate.

AQAP is regarded by the US as one of the deadliest offshoots of al-Qaeda.

The group is based in eastern Yemen and has built up support amid the unrest which has beset the impoverished country since the overthrow of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.

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A video showing a man giving bath to a lion in Yemen went viral online.

It is well known that most lions dislike water and bathing.

Yemeni man giving bath to a lion in cage

Yemeni man giving bath to a lion in cage

The video battling to control a full-grown lion while giving him a shower in a cage is being widely shared on the internet.

At some point when the lion appeared irritated, the man pushed the beast’s head down and shouted “sit down,” forcing it to obey.

Yemen is known for wild animals’ trafficking and smuggling across the border to be sold in the rich neighboring counties.

This is an opportunity for people in the country’s poorest regions to earn money, as price for lion cubs can sometimes reach $13,000.

“A loose network has sprung up, trading not just lions but also cheetahs, leopards, gazelles, hyenas and monkeys,” according to the report.

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Yemen’s PM Mohammed Salem Basindwa has survived an assassination attempt unharmed, officials in the capital Sanaa say.

Gunmen in a vehicle opened fire on the prime minister’s motorcade as he returned home from his office, one of his advisers said.

Yemen’s PM Mohammed Salem Basindwa has survived the assassination attempt unharmed

Yemen’s PM Mohammed Salem Basindwa has survived the assassination attempt unharmed

It is the first time Mohammed Salem Basindwa has come under attack, the AFP news agency says, although other members of his cabinet have previously been targeted.

The government is battling militants of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

A senior intelligence officer was killed by suspected militants in southern Labous province late on Friday.

Mohammed Salem Basindwa was a senior opposition figure before being appointed in November 2011 to head the government set up after veteran leader President Ali Abdullah Saleh left power.

One of his aides, Ali al-Sarari, told Reuters news agency security forces were trying to track down the vehicle used in the attack.

Earlier this month, the US and several other Western countries temporarily shut their embassies in Sanaa after reports of an imminent al-Qaeda attack.

Yemen announces it has foiled an al-Qaeda plot to blow up oil pipelines and seize some of the country’s main ports.

Security remains tight – and hundreds of armored vehicles have been deployed to protect key targets.

Both the US and UK have withdrawn diplomatic staff from Yemen, prompted by intelligence reports of renewed terrorist activity.

The US is reported to be preparing special operations forces for possible strikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen.

It appears that Yemen was at the centre of a complex and audacious plot which – had it succeeded – would have given al-Qaeda control over a crucial aspect of the country’s infrastructure.

Yemeni government spokesman Rajeh Badi said the plot involved blowing up oil pipelines and taking control of certain cities – including two ports in the south, one of which accounts for the bulk of Yemen’s oil exports and is where a number of foreign workers are employed.

“There were attempts to control key cities in Yemen like Mukala and Bawzeer,” said Rajeh Badi.

“This would be co-ordinated with attacks by al-Qaeda members on the gas facilities in Shebwa city and the blowing up of the gas pipe in Belhaf city.”

Yemen has foiled an al-Qaeda plot to blow up oil pipelines and seize some of the country's main ports

Yemen has foiled an al-Qaeda plot to blow up oil pipelines and seize some of the country’s main ports

Al-Qaeda members dressed as soldiers were to be outside the ports, he said. On a given signal they were to invade the facility and take it over.

Yemeni officials quoted by AP news agency said they believed the motive for the planned attacks was retaliation for the killing of senior al-Qaeda figure Said al-Shihri, who was critically wounded in a November drone strike and later died of his injuries.

Tanks and troops have surrounded foreign missions, government offices and the airport, and senior officials are being advised to limit their movements.

Both the US, which closed 20 embassies worldwide on Sunday, and the UK have withdrawn diplomatic staff from Yemen and urged their citizens to leave.

The US embassy and consulate closures reportedly followed intercepted conversations between two senior al-Qaeda figures, including top leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, suggesting terrorist attacks.

According to the New York Times, the US intercepted communications between Ayman al-Zawahiri and the group’s head in Yemen, Nasser al-Wuhayshi.

The paper said the conversation represented one of the most serious plots since the 9/11 attacks.

The Yemeni government spokesman said the international community “feared the reaction of al-Qaeda” and added: “We understand such fears.”

But the foreign ministry has criticized the embassy withdrawals, saying “the evacuation of embassy staff serves the interests of the extremists.”

Although the US has previously sent special forces to train counter-terrorist units, there are now suggestions that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), may be preparing units for strike operations, the sources said.

JSOC co-operates closely with the CIA, which has mounted four drone strikes in Yemen over the past 10 days.

Yemen is the base of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and both the White House and the US state department have said the current threat comes from AQAP but have refused to divulge further details.

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The US State Department has warned citizens and non-emergency government staff to leave Yemen “immediately” due to security threats.

It comes after the sudden closure of 20 US embassies and consulates on Sunday.

This was prompted by intercepted conversations between two senior al-Qaeda figures, including top leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, US media said.

The US earlier said the closures in North Africa and the Middle East were “out of an abundance of caution”.

A global travel alert issued on Tuesday said: “The US Department of State warns US citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.

“The department urges US citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those US citizens currently living in Yemen to depart immediately.”

It added that “the security threat level in Yemen is extremely high”.

The Yemeni capital has been experiencing unprecedented security measures, with hundreds of armoured military vehicles deployed to secure the presidential palace, vital infrastructural buildings and Western embassies in the capital.

The US State Department has warned citizens and non-emergency government staff to leave Yemen "immediately" due to security threats

The US State Department has warned citizens and non-emergency government staff to leave Yemen “immediately” due to security threats

A security source confirmed Yemeni intelligence services had discovered that tens of al-Qaeda members had arrived in Sanaa over the past few days from other regions in preparation for the implementation of a large plot.

The source described the plot as dangerous, and suggested it was to include explosions and suicide attacks aimed at Western ambassadors and foreign embassies in Yemen, in addition to operations aimed at the Yemeni military headquarters.

Both the White House and the US state department have said the current threat comes from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but have refused to divulge further details.

According to the New York Times, the US intercepted communications between Ayman al-Zawahiri and the group’s head in Yemen, Nasser al-Wuhayshi.

The paper said the conversation represented one of the most serious plots since the 9/11 attacks.

A number of US diplomatic posts in the region – including in the Yemeni capital Sanaa – will remain closed until Saturday.

Several European countries have also temporarily shut missions in Yemen and the UK Foreign Office is advising against all travel to the country.

A state department global travel alert, issued last week, is also in force until the end of August.

In its latest statement, the department referred to previous attacks on US embassies, including the storming of its compound in September 2012.

Earlier that month mob attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi had left US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

Meanwhile, officials in Yemen released the names of 25 al-Qaeda suspects, saying they had been planning attacks targeting “foreign offices and organizations and Yemeni installations” in the capital of Sanaa and other cities across the country.

AQAP, the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda, has also been blamed for the foiled Christmas Day 2009 effort to bomb an airliner over Detroit and for explosives-laden parcels that were intercepted the following year aboard cargo flights.

Seven suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed in two US drone air strikes in southern Yemen in June, officials say.

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Yemeni protesters angered by an anti-Islam film made in the US have stormed the grounds of the US embassy in the country’s capital Sanaa.

Police shot in the air in an attempt to hold back the crowds, but failed to prevent them gaining access to the compound and setting fire to vehicles.

A number of people were reported to have been injured.

On Tuesday, the US ambassador to Libya was killed in a fire started after the US consulate in Benghazi was stormed.

Security force reinforcements in Sanaa used tear gas, water cannon and live fire to drive back protesters.

They have now regained control of the Sanaa compound, but protests are continuing outside.

US embassy in Yemen’s capital Sanaa has been stormed by protesters angered by anti-Islam film

US embassy in Yemen’s capital Sanaa has been stormed by protesters angered by anti-Islam film

Earlier on Thursday, US officials said they were investigating whether the attack in Libya was planned, citing suspicions that a militant jihadist group may have co-ordinated the violence.

Three other US consul staff and several Libyans died in that attack, along with Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who is believed to have died from smoke inhalation.

There have also been clashes in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

On Wednesday, demonstrators in Cairo angry at the film – Innocence of Muslims – breached the walls of the US embassy and tore down the flag. Clashes continued in the early hours of Thursday morning.

President Mohammed Mursi has appealed for calm, saying Egyptians “reject any kind of assault or insult” against the Prophet Muhammad.

“I condemn and oppose all who… insult our prophet. [But] it is our duty to protect our guests and visitors from abroad,” he said in a statement broadcast by state media.

“I call on everyone to take that into consideration, to not violate Egyptian law… to not assault embassies.”

Security has been increased at US embassies and consulates around the world in response to the rising tensions.

US President Barack Obama has vowed to work with the Libyan authorities to bring those behind the Benghazi attack to justice.

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More than 30 people have been killed in Yemen after a suspected suicide bomber has struck a village in the southern province of Abyan.

Dozens more were wounded in the attack on a funeral service in the city of Jaar, Yemeni officials said.

Military officials told Associated Press the funeral was for a man linked to militias which had helped the army in their fight against al-Qaeda.

They said five suspected al-Qaeda militants had been killed earlier in the day.

The men were killed in a suspected US drone strike on their vehicle in Hadramawt province.

More than 30 people have been killed in Yemen after a suspected suicide bomber has struck a village in the southern province of Abyan

More than 30 people have been killed in Yemen after a suspected suicide bomber has struck a village in the southern province of Abyan

Local governor Jamal al-Aqal said in a statement that an investigation had been opened into the “criminal and cowardly” attack on the funeral service.

A witness told the AFP news agency that “the suicide bomber belonged to the al-Qaeda network”.

The Yemeni army carried out a major offensive against Islamist militants in Abyan earlier this year, taking control of the region in June with the help of civilian militias comprised of local tribesmen.

Separatist unrest and al-Qaeda-linked militants such as Ansar al-Sharia have plagued the south for years.

 

Yemeni army commander General Salem Ali Qatan leading the fight against militants in the south of the country has been killed in a suicide attack, officials say.

General Salem Ali Qatan was killed near his home in the port city of Aden, a medical official told AFP news agency.

Yemen is battling militants linked to al-Qaeda who have taken control of parts of the south of the country.

It has recently recaptured several strongholds in the restive southern province of Abyan.

General Salem Ali Qatan was killed near his home in the port city of Aden

General Salem Ali Qatan was killed near his home in the port city of Aden

Gen. Salem Ali Qatan, Yemen’s southern army commander, was killed while on his way to work by a man wearing an explosives belt, witnesses said.

One report said the attacker handed Gen. Salem Ali Qatan a paper, shook his hand and then detonated his explosives.

At least four other people were wounded in the attack, AFP reported.

An al-Qaeda-linked insurgency and separatist unrest have blighted the south of Yemen for years.

Last year, empowered by uprisings against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Islamists consolidated their control over Abyan.

However, the Yemeni army recently launched an offensive that recaptured the towns of Shuqra, Zinjibar and Jaar.

 

At least five demonstrators have been shot dead by loyalists of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh during protests in the capital, Sanaa, reports say.

People were protesting against a power transfer deal that promises Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution.

On Wednesday, Ali Abdullah Saleh signed the deal in Saudi Arabia under which he is to step down after more than 30 years in power.

At least five demonstrators have been shot dead by loyalists of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh during protests in the capital, Sanaa

At least five demonstrators have been shot dead by loyalists of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh during protests in the capital, Sanaa

President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to hand power to his deputy after months of protests.

Many other protesters were wounded in the clashes, reports say.

According to an AFP correspondent, the protesters were shot at by armed civilians whom they describe as Ali Abdullah Saleh’s “thugs”, as they marched towards the city centre.

At least four bodies taken from the scene of the shooting were visible at a nearby hospital, correspondents say.

Thousands of people in Sanaa cheered the news of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s impending departure, but others rejected the agreement.

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At least 11 people, including two children and three women, are reported to have been killed in the Yemeni city of Taiz, during a clash between government forces and opposition supporters.

According to medical officials, dozens of others were wounded, including civilians, during clashes.

The upsurge in fighting coincides with the visit to Yemen of a United Nations envoy, Jamal Benomar, who is pressing for a transition of power to end months of conflict.

At least 11 people, including two children and three women, are reported to have been killed in the Yemeni city of Taiz, during a clash between government forces and opposition supporters

At least 11 people, including two children and three women, are reported to have been killed in the Yemeni city of Taiz, during a clash between government forces and opposition supporters

Protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule began in January.

Taiz, Yemen’s second biggest city, is about 200km (120 miles) south of the capital, Sanaa. It has been a hotbed of anti-Saleh protests in recent weeks.

Residents of Taiz say the latest fighting began during protests on Thursday, when one person was killed and several others were injured.

The security forces then began shelling two residential neighbourhoods during the night.

The two districts, Zaid al-Moshki and al-Rawda, along with Freedom Square, have been at the forefront of anti-government demonstrations in Taiz.

Reports say three women and two children, including a nine-year-old boy, were among the 11 killed on Friday.

In Sanaa, Yemeni capital, tens of thousands of anti-Saleh protesters attended prayers on a main road. Some demanded the president be tried for what they called his crimes against the Yemeni people.

Separate prayers were held by thousands of Ali Abdullah Saleh supporters in the capital. There were no reports of violence in Sanaa.

Taiz, Yemen's second biggest city, is about 200km (120 miles) south of the capital, Sanaa

Taiz, Yemen's second biggest city, is about 200km (120 miles) south of the capital, Sanaa

Jamal Benomar, the UN envoy, arrived in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on Thursday and has been meeting government and opposition figures to press for an end to the violence.

A UN spokesman said Jamal Benomar was there to seek “an inclusive transition process that meets the needs and aspirations of all Yemenis”.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has accepted a peace plan put forward by Gulf Arab countries, under which he will step down in return for immunity from prosecution.

However, Ali Abdullah Saleh has repeatedly failed to implement the agreement or follow through on his promise to leave office.

Meanwhile, clashes have escalated between his supporters and anti-Saleh factions, which include Yemeni tribal groups and army defectors.

The UN Security Council has called on Ali Abdullah Saleh end the violence against protesters and step down immediately.

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