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Yemen holds US citizen for suspected al-Qaida ties

Associated Press Modified: October 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm •  Published: October 10, 2012

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's security forces have detained a U.S. citizen suspected of having links to al-Qaida, a Yemeni official said Wednesday.

Authorities arrested the suspect Monday in a hotel in the southern city of Shabwa, which was an al-Qaida stronghold until a military offensive earlier this year pushed the militants into the surrounding mountains, the official said. The man was carrying two U.S. passports and a German one, and had been shuffling from one mosque to another in the nearby eastern city of Marib before moving on to Shabwa, according to the official.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Louis Fintor said the mission was aware of the report.

"We are aware of the reports and seeking further information from Yemeni authorities regarding the individual's citizenship and identity," he said.

The Yemeni official said security forces transferred the man on Tuesday to the capital, Sanaa, where he was being questioned by intelligence officers. He added that the suspect told officials he had been "spreading religious awareness" in Saudi Arabia before moving to Yemen few months ago.

The official declined to give further details. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Yemeni authorities have detained a number of Westerners, Asians, and other foreigners over alleged links to al-Qaida, suspecting that any foreigner who visits cities such as Shabwa that were until recently under the control of al-Qaida-linked militants could have ties to the terrorist network.

Yemen's government has been locked in a fierce battle with the militants, who took advantage of the country's recent political turmoil to seize control of a large swath of territory in the country's south.

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