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'Friends of Yemen' Pledge $4 Billion in Aid

Yemen has been struggling to overcome Islamist insurgency that has seen large parts of the south fall to militants.
International donors have pledged $4 billion in aid to Yemen to help the impoverished state boost the fight against Islamist militants and develop the Yemeni economy.

British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt says a group of mostly Arab and Western nations and international organizations made the pledges on Wednesday at a "Friends of Yemen" donor conference in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. It was the first such gathering in almost two years.

The Saudi hosts of the conference made the largest pledge, offering $3.25 billion to support Yemeni development projects and Yemeni government efforts to improve security across the chaotic nation. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal gave no details on how the money will be disbursed.

Yemeni officials at the donor conference said they need at least $8 billion in foreign aid in the coming years to overcome economic and security challenges.

In an article published Wednesday in London's Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said millions of Yemenis are starving and cannot find jobs or a place to live, and that their fate has implications for the security of the entire region. If Yemen fails to achieve stability, he said, there is a "very real threat" of a decline into civil war.

Yemen has been struggling to overcome an Islamist insurgency that has seen large parts of the south fall into militant hands since last year. Yemeni security officials said the latest fighting in the southern province of Abyan killed at least six soldiers and 22 militants on Wednesday.

Two days earlier, a Yemeni suicide bomber dressed as a soldier blew himself up at a military parade rehearsal in the capital, Sana'a, killing at least 96 troops.

Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility and vowed more attacks if the government continues its anti-militant offensive in the south. Yemeni leaders responded to the attack by vowing to pursue their war against terrorism.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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