WRAPUP 5-Yemen hunts bomb suspect, oil pipeline attacked

* Pipeline attacked as Yemen launches military operation

* U.S. media says insurgents may have staged “dry run”

(Adds oilfield output stopped, militants jailed, Obama call)

By Mohamed Sudam

SANAA, Nov 2 (BestGrowthStock) – Yemen launched an operation on
Tuesday to arrest a Saudi bomb maker accused of being behind a
foiled bomb plot involving U.S.-bound parcels and suspected al
Qaeda fighters blew up an oil pipeline, apparently in response.

Yemen’s army, under international pressure to find the bomb
maker, deployed to the south of the country, where insurgents
attacked a pipeline run by Korea National Oil Corp, shutting
output from a 10,000 barrels-per-day field in Shabwa province.

“This is one of the things we should expect because al Qaeda
wants to give the message to the Yemeni government that military
escalation does not mean that al Qaeda will remain silent now —
that they will react and escalate,” Ibrahim Sharqieh, deputy
director at Brookings Doha Center, told Reuters.

The aim of the military operation in the provinces of Maarib
and Shabwa, where oil and gas fields of international companies
are located, was to capture suspected bomb maker Ibrahim
al-Asiri, a Yemeni security official said.

The mission is also to catch the U.S.-born radical Muslim
preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who is wanted by Washington.

“They want to underline their sincerity in fighting al
Qaeda. They’re in the spotlight again and they want to show
they’re dealing with the issue,” said Nicole Stracke at the Gulf
Research Centre in Dubai.

In a phone call, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh urged
U.S. President Barack Obama to intercede with European countries
to drop bans on passenger or cargo flights from Yemen, which
they imposed after the security scare.

“The decisions by some European countries to stop flights
from Yemen is a collective punishment for the Yemeni people,”
the Yemeni news agency Saba quote Saleh as saying.

Yemeni authorities also began the trial in absentia of
Awlaki, who has been linked to the failed bombing of a
U.S.-bound plane in December 2009 that was claimed by Yemen’s al
Qaeda wing and who is thought to be in southern Yemen.

“The timing of this (Awlaki) trial leaves no doubt that this
is also in response to international pressure on the
government,” Sharqieh said.

The U.S. Treasury has blacklisted Awlaki as a “specially
designated global terrorist”. Earlier this year, the United
States authorised the CIA to capture or kill him.

Another court jailed 16 al Qaeda militants for four years.
<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/RNGS/2010/NOV/QAEDA.jpg For more stories please click on [nYEMEN] For a factbox on Yemen's oil, gas industry [ID:nLDE6040LS] http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/0110/ME_YMN0110.gif ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

The two parcel bombs were intercepted last week on cargo
planes in Britain and Dubai and are thought to be the work of al
Qaeda’s Yemen-based regional arm, al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula (AQAP), U.S. officials say.

Last week’s plot deepened Western security fears focused on
Yemen after AQAP claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb that
Saudi Arabia’s security chief narrowly survived in August 2009
and a foiled Christmas Day attack on a U.S.-bound plane.

Obama has increased funding for Yemen this year, providing
$150 million in military assistance alone.

Unmanned American drone aircraft gather information about
militants and occasionally have fired missiles at them, although
neither Washington nor Sanaa is keen to admit this.

Joint U.S.-Yemeni security operations in the past year have
failed to kill or capture AQAP’s top leadership.

The muscular approach risks provoking a fierce backlash
among Yemenis already deeply hostile to the U.S. invasions of
Iraq and Afghanistan and to Washington’s support for Israel.

Al Qaeda has in the past threatened to target Yemen’s oil
and gas infrastructure, but such attacks have been relatively
rare. Disgruntled tribes have sporadically blown up pipelines to
exert pressure on the government.

“It (the pipeline) is an easy target and doesn’t need much
planning. In all other easy targets especially in the southern
parts of Yemen, we should expect to see some escalation at this
time,” Sharqieh said.


In a fresh development in the interception of the bombs,
U.S. media said American intelligence officials tracked several
shipments of household goods from Yemen to Chicago in September
and considered the parcels might be a dry run for an attack.

Intelligence officials believe the tracking of the shipments
may have been used to plan the route for the parcel bombs.

The “dry run” involved a carton of household goods including
books, religious literature, and a computer disk, but no
explosives, one report said.

The New York Times said the apparent test run may have
allowed plotters to estimate when planes carrying the explosive
toner cartridges would be over Chicago or another city. That
would permit them to set timers on the bombs to trigger
explosions where they would cause the greatest damage.

Governments have tightened aviation security after the
devices sent in air cargo from Yemen were intercepted.

International airlines body IATA warned on Tuesday against
rash moves to improve aviation security.

“We have seen many cases where (solutions) have unintended
consequences,” Giovanni Bisignani, director general of the
International Air Transport Association (IATA), said at an
aviation security conference in Frankfurt.

“Security cannot bring business to a standstill,” John
Pistole, head of the U.S. Transportation Security
Administration, told the conference.

(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam, Mohammed Mukhashef, Chris
Wilson, Maria Sheahan, Erika Solomon and Raissa Kasolowsky;
writing by Peter Millership and Firouz Sedarat; Editing by
Michael Roddy)

WRAPUP 5-Yemen hunts bomb suspect, oil pipeline attacked