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Yemen: 2 Killed in Shootout with Suspected al-Qaida Members - 2002-12-21

Two people have been killed and others injured in a shootout between Yemeni security officials and suspected al-Qaida members thought to have been involved in an attack on a French oil tanker two months ago.

A Yemeni security official said police exchanged gunfire late Friday with suspected members of the al-Qaida terrorist network, who were staying in a residential building in the city of al-Mukalla, about 850 kilometers southeast of the capital, Sanaa.

Police reportedly approached the three-story building looking for suspects involved in the October bombing of the French oil tanker, the Limburg. A gun battle ensued, and the suspects got away.

An AFP news agency report quoted witnesses as saying that among those who fled was Shaker Hamel, who is suspected of having coordinated and funded several terrorist attacks in Yemen.

In the Limburg attack, the ship was gutted and a member of the crew killed, when a small boat carrying explosives blew up next to the ship's hull. The vessel lost about 90,000 barrels of oil in the Gulf of Aden.

French authorities are reportedly in Yemen to investigate the incident and have said, along with Yemeni officials, that it was an act of terrorism.

The Limburg attack came a week before the second anniversary of an attack on a U.S. warship, also in the Aden harbor. Seventeen American servicemen died in the attack, which U.S. officials have blamed on al-Qaida.