- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

SANAA, Yemen, Jan. 11 (UPI) — German authorities have arrested a senior member of a Yemeni political party, the Islamic Reform Party, and his aide in Frankfurt, Yemeni officials said Saturday.

Officials told United Press International that Yemen had asked Germany to hand over the two men, who were taken into custody Friday on suspicion of supporting Osama bin Laden's al Qaida organization. The arrests were made at the request of the United States, they added.

The sources, who asked not to be identified by name, said the two men were Mohammad Ali al-Muayyad, a Shura Council member of the Islamic Reform Party, and his aide, Mohammad Zayed. Muayyad, had reportedly flown to Germany about a week ago for medical treatment.

However, German authorities identified one of the detainees as Mohammad Ali Hassan Sheikh al-Mujahed, about 50 years old, and said he worked as an imam in a Sanaa mosque. Other reports originating with German sources have said al-Mujahed is believed to coordinate al Qaida terrorist network in Yemen.

A source at the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital said the embassy asked Yemeni permission for the Germans to extradite the two men to the United States. But the Yemeni government rejected the request because it violated the country's constitution, which bars handing over Yemenis to any foreign country, the Yemeni officials said.

The German Embassy in Sanaa refused to comment on the arrests.

An official of the Islamic Reform Party said the group's leadership was closely following the arrest of al-Muayyad and his aide, noting a German lawyer had been hired for his colleague.

A German court ruled to keep the men in custody until their situation were resolved, but a government spokesman said they were expected to be handed over to the U.S. authorities as soon as possible.

Several members of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers had lived or studied in Germany, and some observers have suggested Germany is thus anxious to crack down on indications of terrorism.

The first trial in Europe related to the Sept. 11 attacks is currently underway in Hamburg, Germany, in which Moroccan student, Munir al-Mutasadeq, is charged with belonging to al Qaida.

In other news Saturday, Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh held an unexpected meeting Saturday with Yemen's Higher Border Commission, responsible for protecting the country's regional waters and safe passage.

The meeting came hours after the government refuted statements by U.S. naval commander in the Horn of Africa, in which Gen. John Sattler appeared to suggest the presence of U.S. forces in Yemen's regional waters in the Gulf of Aden.

"The porous borders with Somalia are one of the areas that we're taking a very hard look at, as well as the coastlines coming across the Gulf of Aden," said Sattler.

"For this operation (Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa), we are defining the Horn of Africa region as the total airspace and land areas out to the high-water mark of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen," said Defense Department spokesman Maj. Steve Cox when introducing Sattler.

The government-run al-Thawra daily quoted an official source Saturday as insisting there were no U.S. naval forces in his country's waters, but rather in international waters.

A statement issued by the presidential palace said "the (Saleh Commission) meeting was dedicated to discussing the mission of the Navy forces and patrol guards to prevent any violations or infiltration by vessels or boats into Yemen's regional waters, and within international laws."

It added the talks focused on "the need to strengthen the capabilities of the Navy and patrol guards, and providing all necessary support for their mission and responsibility in protecting the shores, islands and waters of Yemen."

U.S. presence in Yemen to combat terrorism has stirred controversy in the country, particularly after an unmanned U.S. aircraft fired missiles at a car in Yemen, killing all six suspected al Qaida passengers.

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