Al-Qaida gives Yemen gov't 48 hours to swap intelligence official
The Yemen-based al-Qaida wing set 48 hours for Sanaa government to swap two al-Qaida detainees for a senior intelligence official it captured late last month in the northern troubled province of Saada, Xinhua reported.
In a statement posted on jihadist forums late Monday, the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said "one of our Mujahedeen brigades have captured deputy director of the Yemeni Political Security Service (intelligence), Colonel Ali Mohammed Salah al-Husam, on August 26."
It said al-Husam was running a network of espionage in Saada for 20 years and has snatched many of al-Qaida-related ideology students and held them incommunicado at intelligence prisons.
"If the apostate government cares for its secret agents, there will be no way to know the fate of this agent unless it releases the two brothers, Hussain al-Tais and Mashhour al-Ahdal, within 48 hours of issuing this statement," the statement said.
"Al-Tais and al-Ahdal were arrested by northern Shiite rebels in a checkpoint in al-Jouf province, northeast of the capital Sanaa, and were then handed over to the intelligence director of Saada, Yahya al-Marani according to the confession of his depuy al-Husam," it added.
Northern Saada province is considered to be a stronghold of Houthi-led Shiite rebels who sealed a fragile ceasefire with the Yemeni government on February 11 to end a six-year long sporadic battles.
According to local counter-terrorism observers, al-Qaida's statement raised concerns over its ability to freely move in a conflicted area (Saada) which considered to be the key stronghold of historical anti-Qaida Shiite sect.
AQAP has reportedly a strong presence in south and southeast provinces of the impoverished Arab country. The ancestral homeland of al-Qaida network leader Osama bin Laden, has witnessed a series of deadly attacks by al-Qaida group across Yemen since late last year.
The U.S.-backed Yemeni government has intensified security operations and air raids against terrorist groups after the Yemen-based al-Qaida wing claimed credit for a botched attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound passenger plane last December.