Yemen has arrested eight suspected al-Qaeda fighters, including a Saudi fugitive, accused of plotting attacks on security installations in Yemen, the defence ministry has said.
Sunday's arrests came days after two suspected members of the same al-Qaeda cell were detained after a raid on a house in Hadramout province that sparked clashes in which three soldiers were killed.
"Two al-Qaeda elements were arrested during a raid on a house where cell members were hiding, and eight others were caught in the following days," the ministry said on its website.
A security official said the group arrested in Hadramout, east of the capital Sanaa, was accused of plotting attacks on security and other vital installations in the eastern province, but did not identify specific targets.
The defence ministry identified the Saudi who was arrested as Abdullah Faraj Mohamed Mahmoud al-Jawbar, who is on a list of 85 Saudis wanted by Riyadh.
The ministry said that authorities had found a suicide bomb belt in the house a week ago.
Death sentences upheld
Meanwhile, also on Sunday, a Yemeni appeals court upheld death sentences against four al-Qaeda fighters accused of carrying out attacks that included a deadly assault on the US embassy in March 2008 and the killing of two Belgian tourists in the same year.
A court official said the appeals court overturned the death sentences of two other alleged members of the same cell who were convicted of attacks on police in southern Hadramout province, and sentenced them to 12 years each instead.
The court in Sanaa on Sunday also upheld sentences of up to 15 years imprisonment against 10 other al-Qaeda suspects, including four Syrians and a Saudi man, for masterminding the attacks.
The cell was also accused of waging successive attacks on police and oil installations.
Most of the 16 fighters were arrested in August 2008 following a fierce gunbattle between al-Qaeda and Yemeni security forces in Hadramout.
Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world and its government is already struggling to contain an uprising in the north, unrest in the south and the re-emergence of al-Qaeda in the region.