Forces clash with al-Qaida suspects

Saturday, December 21, 2002

SAN'A, Yemen -- Yemeni security forces battled suspected al-Qaida members holed up in a building in a gunfight that left two policemen dead and four others wounded, a security official said.

Two suspected al-Qaida members escaped after the battle in the port city of al-Mukalla.

The official said they were believed to be Shaker bin Hamel and Abdel Hakem Abduo, wanted by the government as suspects in the Oct. 6 attack on the French tanker Limburg, which killed a crew member.

Police in al-Mukalla approached the three-story residential building after being tipped off that al-Qaida members lived there, the official said on condition of anonymity

A gunbattle ensued and at least six officers were wounded. Two of the officers later died in hospital of their wounds. One was identified as Yehia el-Masholy.

Security forces cordoned off the building and set up checkpoints in the city, about 350 miles southeast of the capital, San'a, the official said.

The attack on the Limburg was carried out by an explosives-packed boat that was detonated next to the tanker's hull. The damaged tanker discharged about 90,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Aden.

A similar attack on the destroyer USS Cole, in which 17 U.S. sailors were killed, was also blamed on al-Qaida, the terror group blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has Yemeni origins.

Another Yemeni government official said Friday that authorities were expected to charge 10 people in the Limburg attack.

A French security team is in Yemen investigating the attack, the official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

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