SANAA, Yemen - Yemen was thrust back into the forefront of the international fight against terrorism Tuesday when the U.S. and Britain evacuated embassy staff due to a threatened attack, a suspected U.S. drone killed four alleged members of al-Qaida, and militants shot down a Yemeni army helicopter.
As Westerners flew out of the country, Yemeni authorities launched a wide investigation into the al-Qaida threat to multiple potential targets in the impoverished Arab nation. Security officials said they believed the terror network was seeking retaliation for a U.S.-backed military offensive that has dealt serious setbacks to the terror network's most active branch, including the death earlier this year of its No. 2 leader.
The Yemeni army, meanwhile, surrounded foreign installations, government offices and the airport with tanks and troops in the nation's capital, Sanaa, as well as the strategic Bab al-Mandeb straits at the entrance to the Red Sea in the southern Arabian Peninsula, drawing parallels with security measures following the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbor that killed 17 American sailors.
Police in an armored vehicle secure a road leading to the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday. The State Department on Tuesday ordered non-essential personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen to leave the country. The department said in a travel warning that it had ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Yemen 'due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks' and said U.S. citizens in Yemen should leave immediately because of an 'extremely high' security threat level.
Authorities also set up checkpoints across Sanaa, searching cars and individuals, especially after night fell. Top government officials, along with military and security commanders, were told to stay vigilant and limit their movements.