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Yemen Court Upholds al-Qaida Death Sentences

An appeals court in Yemen has upheld death sentences against four members of an al-Qaida cell convicted of attacks on government and Western targets.

The attacks in 2008 included a mortar assault on the U.S. embassy that caused casualties at an adjacent girls' school, the killing of two female Belgian tourists, and assaults on oil facilities and a military camp.

Yemen says the condemned men were part of a 16-member al-Qaida cell convicted last July.

The appeals court on Sunday commuted the death sentences of two other members of the cell and gave them 12-year prison terms instead. The court reduced the prison sentences of at least five cell members to eight-year terms but upheld the original jail terms of two others.

The rulings came the same day that the al-Qaida branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for a deadly attack against an intelligence headquarters last month in the southern city of Aden. That assault killed at least 11 people.

Meanwhile, Yemen's Defense Ministry on Sunday announced the arrest of eight al-Qaida suspects during the last week in the south of the country. The ministry alleged the men were planning attacks on the security forces and vital installations.

Yemen intensified its campaign against al-Qaida after the group's local branch, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, claimed responsibility for the failed bombing of a U.S.-bound passenger jet on December 25.