SANAA, March 12 – Sixteen suspected al Qaeda militants went on trial on Wednesday in Yemen charged with a series of attacks on foreign and government targets last year, including one that killed two Belgian tourists.
The men included 11 Yemenis, four Syrians and a Saudi of Yemeni origin, the court said. They are accused of killing the tourists in the Hadramaut region in January 2008 in an attack claimed by a previously unknown Islamist group called the Yemeni Soldiers Brigades.
They are also accused of failed mortar attacks on the U.S. and Italian embassies and a foreign housing complex in Sanaa, all claimed by the al Qaeda Organisation in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as an attempted attack on an oil refinery.
Attacks on government buildings and security checkpoints are also on the court’s charge sheet. They are not accused however of involvement in a suicide car-bomb attack at the U.S. embassy in September that killed 17 people.
The charge sheet says the men are “members of the al Qaeda organisation”.
Yemen joined the U.S.-led war against terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. cities in 2001.
It has jailed dozens of militants in connection with bombings of Western targets and clashes with authorities, but is still viewed in the West as a haven for Islamist militants.
Over a third of the more than 250 prisoners at the U.S. prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay are from Yemen.