Britain to hold talks on fighting extremism in Yemen

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called an international meeting Friday on combating extremism in Yemen, after an alleged attempt to blow up a US airliner threw the spotlight on militancy there.

Brown's office said the meeting would take place in London on January 28, running "in parallel" with a conference on Afghanistan which is expected to be attended by senior ministers or leaders from about 43 nations.

Long-standing concerns that Yemen has become a haven for Islamic terror groups were thrown into sharp relief when a Nigerian man allegedly trained in the Gulf State was charged with trying to blow up a US airliner on December 25.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, reportedly confessed to being trained by an Al-Qaeda bombmaker in Yemen for his alleged mission to blow up the plane as it came into land in Detroit, sparking a major international security scare.

The United States revealed this week that it was sharply increasing its military and economic aid to the Gulf State to fight a growing threat from Al-Qaeda, and Brown said it was vital to mobilise international support.

"The international community must not deny Yemen the support it needs to tackle extremism," the British prime minister said.

He has invited "key international partners to a high-level meeting in order to discuss how best to counter radicalisation in Yemen", Brown's office said.

The aims of the London meeting would include identifying what the Yemeni government needs to help it fight violent extremism and co-ordinating assistance for areas most at risk of becoming radical, it said in a statement.

The attempted attack on the US plane renewed long-held concerns that Yemen, the poorest Arab country, is a base for violent extremism.

According to the Washington Post and The New York Times, electronic communications intercepted from Yemen by the National Security Agency had warned that an unidentified Nigerian was training for an Al-Qaeda mission.

Meanwhile Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has claimed it was behind the plot. US officials have refused to confirm this but said there was some "linkage" with Al-Qaeda.

The United States has been helping Yemen to train and equip its forces since 2006, and officials say its contribution is expected to rise to 63 million dollars in development and security assistance in the 2010 fiscal year.

Both countries are sharing intelligence and the United States is widely suspected of having helped Yemeni forces conduct airstrikes against Al-Qaeda targets in the past few weeks.

Yemeni raids in the centre of the country and the Sanaa region last month killed more than 60 Islamist militants, while several rebels were also wounded in clashes this week.

Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh appealed in his new year's message Friday to young people not to be "fooled by elements of Al-Qaeda", saying: "It is time to lower weapons and renounce violence and terrorism."

In his new year's message, Brown said the Detroit incident showed that terrorism remained a "very real" global threat as the world enters a new decade, eight years after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

"Enemies of democracy and freedom -- now trying to mastermind death and destruction from Yemen as well as other better-known homes of international terror such as Pakistan and Afghanistan -- are concealing explosives in ways which are more difficult to detect," he wrote in an article on his website.

"Al-Qaeda and their associates continue in their ambition to indoctrinate thousands of young people around the world with a deadly desire to kill and maim.

"Our response in security, intelligence, policing and military action, is not just an act of choice but an act of necessity."

 

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