SANAA (Reuters) - Two Belgian nationals could be deported from Yemen after being detained last month on suspicion of involvement in terrorism, a Yemeni security official and Belgium’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.
The Yemeni official identified the men as Ebrahim Bali and Ezzeddine Tuhairi, Belgians of Arab descent, and said they were detained on April 13 at Sanaa’s airport as they tried to enter the country.
“They were arrested on suspicion of planned terrorist activities in Yemen. We are in a process of negotiation with the Belgian government. We expect them to be deported...within days,” the official said.
A Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the two men were being held over suspected involvement in “terrorist” activity, and said Brussels was seeking consular access to them.
Yemen’s branch of al Qaeda, which has plotted abortive overseas attacks from the country, is of great concern to Washington, which is waging an assassination campaign against alleged members of the group using drone and missile strikes.
The United States wants Yemen’s new president - who took office after a year of mass protests against his predecessor saw Yemen’s military split into warring factions - to unify the armed forces and use them to fight the militant Islamist group.
A group linked to al Qaeda seized chunks of territory in southern Yemen during the uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh - a staunch U.S. ally - and killed around 100 Yemeni troops in a single attack near one of those areas in March.
Reporting by Tom Finn in Sanaa and Ben Deighton in Brussels; Writing by Joseph Logan; Editing by Andrew Osborn