- - Monday, August 23, 2010

YEMEN

Yemeni army kills top Qaeda operative

ADEN, Yemen | Fighting intensified in south Yemen on Monday as the army bombarded supposed al Qaeda fighters who appear to have seized control of the city of Loder while civilians fled.

Authorities said Adel Saleh Hardaba, 27, whom they described as the al Qaeda second in command in the southern city of Loder, was killed in renewed fighting on Monday.

Loder, in Abyan province, has been gripped by deadly clashes since Friday.

“The army is imposing a tight siege on the city, chasing out al Qaeda militants and collaborating gunmen,” a security official said, adding that the military had shelled houses used by militants as launchpads for attacks.

He said many of the militants holed up in the city are believed to be foreigners, notably Saudis and Pakistanis.

At least 29 people, including 11 soldiers, have been killed in clashes that erupted Friday in Loder. Seven purported al Qaeda militants were killed Sunday, while seven others were killed on Friday.

TURKEY

Government to scratch Iran from enemies watch list

ANKARA | Turkey is to remove Iran from a watch list of nations it considers specific threats to its national security, a news report said Monday, amid Western concerns of rapprochement between the two countries.

The updated list is contained in Turkey’s security review, produced by the country’s National Security Council, which will be adopted in October and will no longer refer to Iran as a “specific threat,” the Milliyet newspaper said.

The review replaces a previous edition published five years ago, the newspaper added.

Members of the council, made up of government and military leaders, were not immediately available for comment on the report on Iran, which Western nations accuse of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Turkey’s improved ties with Iran have caused concern in the West. Turkey, a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, upset the United States and its Western allies when it opposed a resolution to impose new sanctions on Iran that was adopted by the Security Council in June.

SPAIN

Two al Qaeda hostages freed

MADRID | Two Spanish aid workers held by al Qaeda’s North African wing were freed on Monday, the Spanish government said, ending a kidnapping in the Sahara Desert that lasted nearly nine months.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said it seized Albert Vilalta and Roque Pascual while they were traveling through Mauritania with a relief aid convoy last November, the latest in a string of abductions claimed by the group.

“They are safe and sound after 268 days in the hands of their kidnappers and [268 days] of the Spanish government’s concern and efforts to obtain their release,” Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told a news conference.

“This brings an end to an act of terrorism that should never have happened,” Mr. Zapatero said.

AQIM has said Spain is one of its targets because it is an ally of the United States and part of NATO.

The release appeared to be linked to Mauritania’s repatriation to Mali earlier this month of a militant convicted of the kidnapping of the two Spaniards, along with a third who was freed in March, a European security analyst said.

IRAN

Production of missile assault boats begins

TEHRAN | Iran began mass-producing two high-speed variants of missile-launching assault boats on Monday, warning its enemies not to “play with fire” as it boosts security along its coastline.

The inauguration of the production lines for the Seraj and Zolfaqar speedboats comes a day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled Iran’s insifwnoua bomber drone, which he said would deliver “death” to Iran’s enemies.

The state-run news agency IRNA reported that Seraj, or Lamp and Zolfaqar, named after Shiite Imam Ali’s sword, would be manufactured at the marine industries complex of the ministry of defense.

Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi opened the assembly lines, saying the vessels would help strengthen Iran’s defense forces, IRNA said.

“Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is relying on a great defense industry and the powerful forces of Sepah (Revolutionary Guards) and the army, with their utmost strength, can provide security to the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and Strait of Hormuz,” Mr. Vahidi said.

“If enemies attack Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s reaction will not be restricted to one area. The truth of our defense doctrine is that we will not attack any country and that we extend our hand to all legitimate countries,” he said.

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, choking off some 40 percent of tanker-shipped oil worldwide, in the event of a military attack.

From wire dispatches and staff reports