As part of Yemen’s attempt to shake off its image as a breeding ground for al-Qaeda activists, and following the events of September 11, 2001, the government ordered the formation of the country’s first Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU).
In order to learn more about the elite organisation, Al Jazeera’s Lauren Taylor travelled to the frontline in the country’s fight against extremism.
Yemen’s Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) was formed in 2003 to confront the challenge posed by members of al-Qaeda.
The unit is trained by the US – as an ally in the “war on terror” – and as a result, US forces work closely with all security agencies in the country.
The CTU is considered the final point of call. Yemen’s other security agencies are the first to respond to emergencies, but when potential attacks are confirmed, the unit is called in.
A senior commander from the CTU, said: “It all depends on the information we receive, if there is confirmation of a potential terrorist attack, other units investigate this and then we are called upon to deal with it if necessary.”
More recently, the unit has targeted individuals who have been on the run since escaping from prison in 2006.
One former prisoner is believed to have been responsible for a suicide bomb attack at one of the country’s top historical sites, the temple of the Queen of Sheba, in 2007.
Seven Spanish tourists and two Yemeni drivers were killed in the incident.
The spectacular scenery and the country’s heritage are what draw visitors to Yemen – a place that has been at the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Asia for thousands of years.
Ultimately, by tackling extremism head on, the CTU hopes to keep visitors coming to the country.