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Al-Qaida Denies Local Commander Killed in Yemen Attack

A statement attributed to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is challenging Yemen's claim it killed a top militant commander and five other members of the local terror offshoot.

The internet message denied local al-Qaida commander Qassim al-Raimi and the others were killed in an attack Friday.

It allowed that some "brothers," a reference to fellow militants, were slightly injured in the raid near Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia.

The claims and counterclaims are the latest to be exchanged in the murky conflict between Yemen's government and an apparently resurgent Yemen-based al-Qaida group.

The resident director of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Stephen Steinbeiser, says without hard evidence, it is difficult to know what is going on.

"Most people are very skeptical of the daily news that they hear from news sources in Yemen and it is difficult for journalists to get into very volatile areas for obvious reasons. I am not sure how you can get the actual events of what is going on," he said.

Steinbeiser says witnesses traveling from conflict zones are often a good source of information. In recent weeks, such first-person accounts have diverged dramatically from the government's version of events, but could not be independently verified.

The institute director says that the government's talk of victory against al-Qaida members certainly helps dampen rumors circulating in Yemen the United States might send troops to the impoverished nation - despite statements by both sides that no such action is planned - or just step up its involvement.

"By showing that it is actually being effective in combating terrorism inside the country, I think the government can stave off more invasive efforts, whether they are from the U.S. or European countries or whatever, can stave off more outside influence in trying to ensure terrorism does not make further inroads into the country of Yemen," he said.

The United States and others have increased their focus on al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula since it claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to bring down a U.S. airliner last month.