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Yemeni Security Forces Clash with al-Qaida - 2002-09-21

Two suspected al-Qaida members and two security officials were wounded late Friday in a shootout following a raid in Yemen's capital, Sanaa.

Yemeni security officials exchanged gunfire with a group of suspected al-Qaida associates in a suburb of Sanaa. After raiding the men's hideout, authorities arrested three other suspects. Police are searching for others who fled the area.

The identities and nationalities of those arrested have not been released.

Security officials say a number of weapons were found during the raid. They say the Rawdaw neighborhood in the northern part of the city houses a number of suspected al-Qaida operatives.

Yemeni officials insist their country does not provide shelter for al-Qaida members. But U.S. officials believe Yemen has become a haven for terrorists. Two years ago, 17 Americans on board the USS Cole were killed when the warship was bombed in the Yemini port of Aden.

The U.S. military is reportedly negotiating with Yemen on a cooperative plan.

But on Wednesday, Yemeni government officials reportedly ruled out a joint U.S.-Yemen effort to root out al-Qaida militants. Yemen says it has sufficient forces of its own and one official said the United States played no part in Friday's raid and arrests.

While American sources appear skeptical about Yemen's anti-terrorist record, human rights groups criticize the country for being overzealous. Amnesty International accuses Yemen of detaining academics, journalists and children as young as 12.