January 13, 2008 / 10:21 AM / 12 years ago

Yemen's al Qaeda wing vows to free jailed militants

DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda in Yemen vowed to free its prisoners from the country’s jails and retaliate for the killing of militants by the government.

Yemeni defendants Hamad Ali al-Dhahouk (R) and Abdul-Aziz Hussein al-Hatbani sit inside the cage of a state security court during the final hearing of their trial in Sanaa January 13, 2008. The two men are charged with spying for Egypt and supplying its embassy in Sanaa with misleading and false information about a joint Saudi-Kuwaiti plan to finance terrorist attacks in Egypt. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Dozens of al Qaeda militants are serving jail terms in the Arabian Peninsula country for involvement in bombings against Western targets and clashes with the authorities.

“By God we shall not rest ... until we free our brothers and sisters from the prisons,” the group said in an e-magazine posted on an Islamist Web site late on Saturday.

“The blood of Muslims will not go wasted,” it said in an article signed by a man who identified himself as Abdul-Aziz.

“The Prophet (Mohammad) ... has ordered that we free detainees,” it said in the first edition of the magazine it called “The Echoes of Epics”.

A group of 23 militants including many convicted al Qaeda militants tunnelled out of a Sanaa jail in February 2006 with help from fellow Islamists. Several of the escapees have been killed or arrested and some have surrendered to the authorities.

The fugitives included the leaders of the 2000 bombing of the U.S. warship Cole and the 2002 attack on the French supertanker Limburg.

The jailbreak embarrassed the government, which is battling Islamist militants, and raised questions among Western allies about Yemen’s security measures.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.

The magazine also carried an interview with a Saudi al Qaeda fugitive it identified with the alias Abu-Humam al-Qahtani, who reiterated the group’s long-standing goal of blocking oil supplies from the oil exporting region, ejecting “infidels” from he Arabian Peninsula and targeting Western interests.

The militant, who appeared to be a junior al Qaeda member, was explaining why he had chosen to fight in the Arabian Peninsula instead of joining combatants in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Saudi and Yemeni forces foiled attempts by al Qaeda to attack oil and gas facilities in 2006 after the group urged Muslims to target Western interests in the region.

Reporting by Inal Ersan; Editing by Giles Elgood

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