Yemeni students protest parcel bomb arrest

By Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA (BestGrowthStock) – Students at Sanaa University on Sunday protested against the arrest of a colleague suspected of involvement in sending explosive packages bound for the United States, saying she was innocent.

The woman, believed to be in her 20s, was arrested by Yemeni authorities late on Saturday. Officials said she had been traced through a telephone number she had left with a cargo company.

“The Sanaa University student union … believes the girl is innocent and has been wronged,” said union president, Ridhwan Massoud, 30.

“We are calling for her release,” he said.

Dozens of students staged a sit-in in the courtyard of Sanaa University’s engineering faculty. Yemeni officials had said the woman was studying medicine, but students at the university said she was in her final year of a computer science degree.

Yahya al-Hammadi, a 21-year-old engineering student, told Reuters she had attended the faculty until the previous day.

“She was not known to be active in anything, not politics nor religion,” Hammadi said. “I am totally perplexed by this.”

The woman was the first person to be arrested after two air freight packages containing bombs — both sent from Yemen and addressed to synagogues in Chicago — were intercepted in Britain and Dubai last week.

Officials say the devices bear the hallmarks of al Qaeda, whose Yemeni branch, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was behind a failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day last year.

A U.S.-backed crackdown on al Qaeda, launched by the Yemeni government in the aftermath of the failed December bombing, has done little to dent the group’s ambitions and militants launched a campaign of counter-attacks on foreign and state targets.

Neighbors of the woman told Reuters she and her family were known in the neighborhood as pious but not as holding extremist views.

“We were shocked because we knew of nothing suspicious about the girl or her family,” said Mohammed Saleh al-Ashwal, who witnessed Saturday’s raid on the woman’s house.

(Additional reporting by Mohamed Sudam and Khaled Abdullah, writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Yemeni students protest parcel bomb arrest