Sat, Jul 07, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Security forces in Yemen battle Islamic extremists

PROTEST On Thursday, a rally that was sponsored by the government saw some 1,500 people gather to denounce terrorism. They chanted 'Islam is innocent'

AP , SANAA

Yemeni security forces battled Islamic fundamentalists during raids in search of suspects in a suicide bombing that killed seven Spanish tourists, a security official said.

At least one fundamentalist -- an Egyptian national -- was killed and two Yemeni armed forces were wounded in the gunfight on Thursday in Sanaa, the Yemeni official said.

Fifteen people were detained, including three alleged al-Qaeda members suspected of providing assistance to the group that staged Monday's suicide bombing, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He did not specify what kind of support the men allegedly gave, but said authorities were looking for three others believed to have provided covering fire for the bomber.

The suicide bomber rammed his car into a group of tourists who were visiting the ruins of a temple linked to the ancient Queen of Sheba, killing seven Spaniards and two Yemenis.

The attack came less than two weeks after the US embassy issued a warning to travelers to avoid the area around the temple in northern Yemen, which until recent years was rarely visited because of frequent kidnappings of foreigners.

The police raids and arrests took place in Sanaa, coastal towns and the northeastern province of Marib, where the bombing occurred. Yemeni security forces have also deployed in the capital to protect embassies, government buildings and top state officials.

Spain has flown home five survivors of the attack and sent Spanish police specialists to support local investigators.

A sixth wounded tourist remained in a Yemeni hospital to undergo a second operation and was reported to be in serious condition, Spanish authorities said.

Yemeni security officials said on Tuesday that they had been warned about a possible al-Qaeda attack, but did not think it would be a suicide bombing against tourists.

They said al-Qaeda had warned it would attack Yemeni oil facilities, government institutions and foreign embassies.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has offered a US$76,000 reward for any information about those responsible for the attack.

On Thursday, a government-sponsored protest gathered some 1,500 Yemenis in the capital to denounce terrorism in their country.

"Islam is innocent of these murders," demonstrators chanted.

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