Yemen tightens security around embassies, airport

SANAA: Security has been ratcheted up around the airport and foreign embassies in Sanaa, Yemeni officials said today, amid fears of strikes by an Al-Qaeda branch linked to a botched attack on a US airliner.

The measures come as US authorities announced intensifying airport security checks on passengers travelling from or via 14 "terror linked" countries, including Yemen.

The US and British embassies in Sanaa remained shut today after closing their doors

a day earlier for what they said were reasons of security, officials said.

Yemeni officials, asking not to be named, told AFP security had been tightened outside the American and British missions as well as around other foreign missions in the capital.

The US embassy on Sunday said it was closing its doors in response to "ongoing threats by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to attack American interests in Yemen." Britain followed suit, with a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office in London confirming its Sanaa embassy had been closed "for security reasons." US President Barack Obama has accused the Yemen-based AQAP of arming and training a Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day.

AQAP claimed responsibility for the failed attack and called for strikes on embassies in Yemen.

A Yemeni security official told AFP that police measures "were intensified" on the road to the airport "following the closure of the US embassy." "These measures are preventive in case of any attacks by Al-Qaeda in the country, mainly as the road to Sanaa airport is vital," he told AFP requesting anonymity. Security had already been tight around the US embassy, which was the target of a car bomb in September 2008 that killed 19 people outside the complex.

Obama's counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan warned Sunday of possible attacks by Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

"There are indications that Al-Qaeda is planning to carry out an attack against (a) target inside of Sanaa, possibly our embassy," he said.

Washington's Transport Security Administration said on Sunday that all passengers flying into the United States from abroad will be subject to random screening or so-called "threat-based" screens.

It further mandated that "every individual flying into the US from anywhere in the world travelling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening." Among the affected countries are Yemen, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia.

Fears of an attack in Yemen grew after AQAP urged Muslims to attack Western targets in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country after claiming the thwarted airline attack.

Japan, France shut embassies

TOKYO: Japan suspended consular services at its embassy in Yemen on Monday, amid fears of attacks by

an Al-Qaeda branch linked to a botched attack on a US airliner, the Japanese foreign ministry said.

The US and British embassies in Sanaa have been shut since Sunday for what they said were reasons of security, officials in the Yemeni capital said Monday.

"We have shut the consular service section at the Japanese embassy, where Yemeni people come to apply

for visas," said Yukiya Hamamoto, an official at the foreign ministry's Middle East section.

"I understand that otherwise the embassy is conducting business as usual

inside," he added.

France too has closed its embassy in Yemen, the French foreign ministry said in Paris on Monday.

Two Qaeda suspects killed

DUBAI: Yemen security forces killed two suspected Al-Qaeda members and wounded three others on Monday in a clash north of the capital.

Security forces hunting suspected Al-Qaeda member Mohammed al-Hanq clashed with his bodyguards near Arhab, 40 km north of Sanaa between Al Hanq and Beit Boussan villages, the source told AFP. Two of Hanq's group, his son and his nephew, were killed and three were wounded, while he managed to escape, the source added.