Sunday, January 24, 2010

Qaeda coordinating with Yemen's Huthi rebels: Saudi minister

RIYADH — Al-Qaeda is coordinating with Yemen's Huthi rebels battling Yemen and Saudi government forces along the two countries' border, the Saudi deputy defence minister said on Saturday.

"We have confirmed information... that there is communication and coordination" between the two groups, said Prince Khaled bin Sultan, according to the official SPA news agency.

Prince Khaled, who was speaking to troops in Jizan, in southwestern Saudi Arabia, did not provide details of the alleged cooperation.

But Yemen and Saudi government officials have said several times in recent months that the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been helping the Zaidi Shiite rebels known as Huthis.

The Huthis, who until recently controlled a large swathe of mountain territory in Yemen's northwest Saada province, have been under a sustained military assault by Yemen land and air forces since August.

In early November, after Huthis crossed into Saudi territory and occupied some small villages, Saudi troops undertook their largest mobilisation since the 1990-1991 Gulf War and began overtly attacking the rebels from land and air.

Prince Khaled also said on Saturday that the military had recovered the bodies of 20 out of the 26 Saudi soldiers listed as missing in the fighting since November. On January 12 Prince Khaled put the death toll at 82.

Earlier this week the southern region commander, General Ali Zaid al-Khawaji, said that 113 soldiers had died and that several more had likely been captured by the Huthis, according to Al-Riyadh newspaper.

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