SANAA, Yemen (AP) - Military and intelligence officials in Yemen said Wednesday they uncovered an al-Qaida plot to fire missiles at foreign embassies in the capital and to attack naval forces guarding international shipping in the Red Sea.
Details of the plot, which was reminiscent of the suicide attack on the USS Cole in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors, emerged as Yemen remains in a heightened state of alert that has seen the U.S. and British embassies evacuated and a new suspected U.S. drone strike that killed seven alleged militants from the terrorist group.
The discovery of the al-Qaida plot prompted the Defense Ministry to step up security around the strategic Bab el-Mandeb waterway, which connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden. Officials banning speedboats or fishing vessels from the area, and military forces have been ordered to shoot to kill anybody who arouses suspicion or refuses to identify themselves.
A police officer checks a car at the entrance of Sanaa International Airport on Wednesday in Yemen.
Defense Minister Minister Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed visited the area Sunday and urged the forces, known as Battalion 117, to stay on high alert for possible suicide attacks, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
An estimated 3.5 million barrels of oil passed daily in 2010 through the Bab el-Mandeb strait, increasing the strategic importance of impoverished Yemen, which itself has only a relatively small production of oil and natural gas. Revenue from oil and gas production is declining, worsening Yemen's ability to provide social services.
The militants from the terrorist group's Yemeni branch - known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula - also were said to be plotting to use long-range missiles to target embassies and diplomats' residences, or try to take foreigners as hostages, the officials said.