Yemen busts Iran spies, detains ‘American’ on Qaeda wanted list


Yemen has dismantled a spy ring that included Iranians who entered the country posing as investors looking to set up a factory, the defense ministry said on its website Monday.

The spy cell also had members from Syria and Yemen, the website said, citing an informed source.

“Iranian, Syrian and Yemeni elements were arrested during the past period” across Yemen as part of “Iranian spy cells held in Yemen,” the site reported.

It said the Iranians had entered Yemen posing as investors with authorization to start a factory.

The Iranians began importing equipment through the port of Aden in Yemen’s south but when “one of the containers was inspected, it was revealed that the equipment it was carrying was for military... and not civilian purposes,” said

When re-assembled, the equipment could be used for “making rockets and various weapons,” it added.

The website did not specify how many people involved in the spy ring were arrested. It also did not offer details on the role of Syrian and Yemeni members of the alleged espionage cell.

In September, Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi accused Tehran of “supporting some armed and political movements in Yemen,” adding that “five spy networks working for Iran have been discovered and referred to justice while a sixth network was recently dismantled.”

He also accused the Islamic republic of “trying to derail the political” process in Yemen, where a year-long popular uprising led to the ouster of former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh after an agreement was sealed in November.

On Friday, al-Hayat daily quoted Hadi as saying that Iran was backing a faction of Yemen’s separatist Southern Movement seeking to secede by the force of arms.

Sunni-majority Yemen and Shiite-dominated Iran have often regarded each other with mutual suspicion. Sana’a suspects Tehran of supporting rebels of the Shiite Zaidi sect in north Yemen who from 2004 fought six wars with central government forces before signing a truce in February 2010.

Meanwhile, Yemeni security forces on Monday detained a man believed to be an American who appeared on a list of wanted al-Qaeda suspects, a security official told AFP.

The suspect was detained in Ataq, the capital of Shabwa province, a jihadist stronghold in the south of Yemen, the official said.

He spoke in English, said he was a Muslim and had three passports in his possession -- two American and one German, he added.

As the man appeared on an interior ministry wanted list, he was handed over to the intelligence services, who transferred the suspect to the capital Sana’a.

The official did not identify the suspect, nor give any other details of the circumstances of his arrest or why he was wanted.