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Air strikes kill 30 Qaeda suspects, plot against embassies foiled: Yemeni forces

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Yemeni security forces carried out air strikes in which 30 suspected al-Qaeda militants were reported killed in the south of the country on Wednesday and said they foiled a plot to attack embassies.

A Yemeni Red Cross worker was also killed in the air raids as he travelled in the south on a mission to help negotiate the release of a kidnapped French colleague, a relative told AFP.

The aircraft carried out several strikes, the mayor of Mahfed town on the outskirts of Abyan and Shabwa provinces, Yaslam al-Anburi, told AFP by telephone. “There were 30 deaths in Qaeda ranks for sure.”

Meanwhile, Yemen’s security forces foiled a militant plot to attack embassies in Sana’a, state news agency SABA said on Wednesday, just days after the army forced Qaeda out of bastions in the south.

“Security forces have managed to foil a terror plot targeting foreign embassies in the capital,” SABA said, citing a top security official.

The official said “three suspects armed with weapons, explosives and maps showing the location of foreign embassies” were detained.

He said the residences of “military commanders and other important people” were also marked on the maps.

Fight against al-Qaeda

The report comes two days after the death of Salem Ali Qoton, the general who spearheaded a month-long offensive against Qaeda in Yemen’s Abyan and Shabwa provinces in the south.

The offensive, launched on May 12, ended more than a year of Qaeda’s control of a string of towns and villages in the troubled south and east.

The militants are believed to have fled to the lawless mountainous regions of the eastern Hadramawt province.

Meanwhile, in the southern province of Bayda, security forces killed local al-Qaeda leader Salah al-Jawhari and two other “suicide bombers who were preparing to target military and security commanders in Bayda,” SABA on Wednesday cited the same official as saying.

Jawhari was “in charge of Qaeda suicide cells in both Sana’a and Bayda,” the official said.

However, residents of the province’s al-Yafea district gave a different version of events, saying a drone had fired missiles at al-Jawhari’s vehicle - indicating it was a U.S. attack.

The United States has escalated its use of drones to kill suspected al-Qaeda militants in the impoverished country.

Security forces also arrested Majed al-Qulaisi, “a member of the (Qaeda) cell that planned” the deadly suicide attack that killed more than 100 troops at a military parade rehearsal in Sana’a last month, he said.

A Tunisian, “one of Qaeda’s most dangerous foreign nationals in Yemen,” Nizar Abdel Rahman, was also arrested on Wednesday, the official said.

After taking office in February, President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi pledged to destroy al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the network’s local branch, which is considered by Washington as the group’s most active and deadly.

Three soldiers killed

Fighting against Qaeda continued until early Wednesday and it took place about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from Azan in Shabwa province, officials said. The army seized the town earlier this week and militants fled to mountainous areas. Three soldiers were killed and one was wounded.