|Security concerns are high in Yemen ahead of the Gulf Football Championships that starts in November [Reuters]|
Yemeni security forces have prevented a planned attack on “vital installations” ahead of the 20th Gulf Football Cup in the southern city of Aden, the interior ministry said.
A man was arrested as he placed a plastic bag containing 1,800g of dynamite at a location in the city, a statement from the ministry late on Saturday said.
Following Saturday’s incident, officers detained seven suspected accomplices and were hunting for another two members of a group suspected of “sabotage”.
Separately, the trial of five Yemenis accused of attacking a sports club in the city earlier this month began on Sunday.
The five were accused of placing explosives at Al-Wahda club in the Sheikh Othman area of Aden, wounding 17 people, three of whom later died.
They denied the charges and requested access to lawyers. The court set the next hearing for Wednesday to allow for legal representation.
The October 11 attack, for which responsibility was not claimed, threw doubts on Yemen’s ability to stage the regional Gulf Cup tournament from November 22 to December 5 in Aden and Abyan.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Sanaa, said that a separatist movement is gaining momentum in the southern provinces and al-Qaeda seems to be extending its reach there as well.
“Against all these odds, the government decided to host the biggest football tournament in the Gulf in the city of Aden. This is of course a politically motivated decision because the government is desperate to show the world a very positive story in Yemen,” Ahelbarra said.
“The separatist and al-Qaeda would like to see these events disrupted because that would definitely be a blow to Yemen.”
The two provinces hosting the competition involving Yemen, Iraq and six Gulf states have seen an increasing number of al-Qaeda attacks, although Aden has generally been spared from violence that has plagued other areas of the south.
General Qiran Abdullah, Aden’s security chief, said that “all necessary measures… to ensure security in the provinces of Aden, Abyan, and Lahij during the Gulf Cup,” had been taken.
However, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, Yemen’s foreign minister, warned that there were about 400 al-Qaeda fighters in the country and that they “seek to cause chaos and destruction”.
He told al-Hayat newspaper on Sunday that Saudi nationals were among the active fighters. Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni and Saudi offshoots joined forces last year to form al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, faces a sporadic rebellion by northern fighters in addition to the al-Qaeda threat and a southern separatist movement.
The so-called Houthifighters are from the majority Zaidi group in the north of Yemen, but they are a minority nationwide. They aim to re-establish the autonomous rule they held before a coup in 1962.
The government and the Houthis reached a ceasefire agreement in February. But the separatist problems in the south show no sign of a resolution.