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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 10:10 GMT
Yemen attacks 'al-Qaeda hideout'
Yemen
Yemeni forces have attacked a village east of the capital Sanaa where suspected members of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network may be hiding.

At least 12 people were reportedly killed on Tuesday morning when Yemeni police and soldiers clashed with tribesmen in the village of al-Husoun in Marib province, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Sanaa.

USS Cole
The US believes al-Qaeda was behind the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen
Tanks and helicopters were deployed in the attack, which involved heavy exchanges of gunfire.

Residents of the village are believed to have refused to hand over a number of suspected al-Qaeda members when asked to do so by the authorities.

US and local forces in Afghanistan are at present mopping up al-Qaeda members there, after the six-week American bombardment defeated the country's Taleban rulers who had been sheltering them.

Bin Laden and many of his supporters are still at large and may have fled Afghanistan.

The BBC's Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner says that, while the numbers involved in the raid in Yemen are small, it is nonetheless highly significant that an Arab government is launching its own military offensive against the al-Qaeda network.

US pressure

It is unclear whether US forces were involved in the attack on the village in Yemen, but Sanaa has been co-operating with American officials in hunting down Bin Laden's militant network, which the US believes was behind the 11 September attacks in New York and Washington.

Osama Bin Laden
Bin Laden's family originate from Yemen
The United States suspects that Bin Laden's men were also behind the attack on the USS Cole in southern Yemen's Aden harbour in October 2000, which killed 17 American sailors.

Al-Qaeda is known to have had training camps in remote areas under the protection of local tribal leaders.

Washington has made clear it expects countries like Yemen - known to have played host to supporters of Bin Laden in the past - to work with them or else face the consequences.

In a display of support, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh recently travelled to Washington for talks with the US administration. There he was given a list of wanted suspects.

Yemen is in fact the ancestral home of the al-Qaeda leader, and a significant proportion of the Arab fighters who fought on behalf of the Taleban in Afghanistan are known to have originated from the country.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Heba Saleh
"Yemeni security forces shelled the village "
Charles Hayman, Jane's World Armies
"This marks the beginning of the next phase"
Yemeni journalist Bashraheel Bashraheel
"The government is not willing to compromise on this issue"
See also:

11 Dec 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Tough questions over allies' next move
20 Oct 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Wind of change in Yemen
12 Dec 01 | Monitoring
Three countries fear US wrath
14 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Yemen
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