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Yemen claims to have arrested major financier of al Qaeda

Reuters is reporting:

Yemen has arrested a man described as al Qaeda’s top financer in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, a security source told Reuters on Sunday.

Separately, a government source said nine foreigners, including seven Germans, were kidnapped in the Saada area of north Yemen.

Militant activity in Yemen, a revolt in the north and a secessionist movement in the south has unsettled Western governments and Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter.

Saudi Arabia brought an al Qaeda campaign of violence launched in the kingdom in 2003 under control, but fears are that Yemen will become the staging post for a revival of the effort to destabilise the U.S.-allied Saudi royal family.

Saudi national Hassan Hussein Alwan was seized two days ago in Marib province in eastern Yemen, the security source said.

A security official cited in a statement by the Yemeni embassy in Washington that described Alwan’s arrest as “a major coup in the war on al Qaeda.”

“Alwan’s arrest will be instrumental in understanding the system of global terrorism financing. He is expected to be an intelligence mine for information which will hopefully result in the capture or killing of al Qaeda militants,” the embassy said.

According to the government source, the nine foreigners were seized in the Saada area, just days after 24 medical workers were taken hostage but released within a day.

The source said one of the Germans was a doctor at a local hospital which the other Germans, including his three children, were visiting. The defence ministry said in its online newspaper “September 26″ that Saada rebels carried out the kidnapping.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier did not confirm the kidnap, saying in Berlin on Sunday only that seven Germans had been missing since late Saturday. Germany had set up a crisis task force and was in contact with Yemeni authorities.

The Briton is an engineer and the South Korean a female school teacher working with an aid agency. A source among the rebels of Saada’s Houthi clan, members of a Shi’ite sect, denied responsibility for the kidnapping.

On Friday, tribesmen in Saada released 24 doctors and nurses they had abducted a day earlier with a demand that authorities should free two prisoners, a government official said.

The 24, most of whom were Yemenis but also included Egyptians, Indians and Filipinos, were working at a Saudi-backed hospital in the Saada area.

In 2004, tribesmen in Saada led by members of the Houthi clan began an intermittent rebellion against the government in protest at what they said was economic and religious discrimination.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.