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Local al-Qaida Leader Killed in Yemen

The alleged leader of an al-Qaida cell was killed in the Yemeni province of Shabwa, after security forces raided the house he was hiding in, according to the provincial governor. Yemen recently began cracking down on al-Qaida operations in several eastern provinces.

The governor of Yemen's eastern Shabwa province announced Wednesday that government security forces had killed a man they describe as the leader of a local al-Qaida cell, amid ongoing and intensive counter-terrorism operations.

Governor Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi told journalists that Abdullah Mehdar was killed by government security forces after they laid siege to a house where he was hiding.

Yemeni government TV reported that four alleged al-Qaida members were also arrested in the raid, which began Tuesday. The report said one security officer was killed when "al-Qaida tried to create a diversion, attacking security forces in another place."

Editor-in-chief Hakim Almasmari of the Yemen Post newspaper says that the latest success by the Yemeni government is part of a series of ongoing attacks on al-Qaida targets.

"Around 12 raids have happened in Sana'a on al-Qaida suspects over the last two days. In Shabwa, Abdallah Mehdar was killed because he did not surrender. He's not one of the top al-Qaida leaders but he is a member of al-Qaida. The good thing is that there were no civilian casualties reported for the attack," he said.

Almasmari says that Yemeni security forces were given special anti-terrorism training by the United States and are experienced in such operations.

"The national security army was trained by the U.S. for terrorist combating, so they were well trained. They attacked [Abdallah Mehdar's] house and he refused to surrender, but other al-Qaida members usually surrender to the government," he added.

The French press agency, quoting local sources, indicated that 18 al-Qaida suspects escaped the government dragnet and fled to a nearby mountain.

Yemeni TV, quoting military sources, warned local residents not to help al Qaida terrorists, but to help security forces in capturing them.

Shabwa province governor al-Ahmadi told reporters Sunday that dozens of foreign al-Qaida fighters, including Egyptians and Saudis who have fled from Afghanistan are hiding in the mountains of Shabwa district.

Yemen analysts say that Nasser al-Waheshi, leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, his deputy Saeed Ali al-Shehri, and Yemeni American Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki may be hiding in Shabwa.