Yemen searches for terror suspects

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Lisa Mullins: Yemen launched a major operation today to arrest the man to be accused of being behind the foiled air cargo plot. He's a Saudi bomb maker, and he's believed the top technical expert of the group Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The bombs were discovered only after Saudi intelligence agents alerted authorities in the west about the plot.

Dr. Muhamed Qubaty is an advisor to the Prime Minister of Yemen. He says Yemeni officials were disappointed when they learned they were not the first in line for the tip-off.

Dr. Muhamed Qubaty: We felt a little bit let down by all of our regional and global partners because if this information was passed to us, we'd have been much more successful in confronting this people, in knowing and trusting them, and following them, you see. If these people were caught it would help in the long run of fighting Al-Qaida.

Mullins: If they'd been caught, of course those listening on the outside might say look, this is missing the point. I mean, you might be disappointed that you weren't told by the Saudis that they had this tipster. On the other hand, there are others who are very disappointed that Yemen didn't find out about this on their own and prevent it from happening.

Qubaty: On the contrary, we think that you know, the fight, surely they might have been smothered. The fight with Al-Qaida in Yemen has been going on like this for the past two decades. Our American friends were targeted by Al-Qaida in Yemen in 1992. The world has sort of left Yemen to fight Al-Qaida on its own since 1992. We had another incident you know, where four of the tourists were killed in in Kenya in 1998. Then we had the incident in relation to the S.S. Cole. All of these things have affected Yemen so much. One those tourists were killed you know, the tourism industry in Yemen just went to zero, okay? So for the past 20 years we have been shouldering the fight with Al-Qaida by ourselves. And we think that we're actually bearing more than our fair share with our very, very limited resources and means. And obviously Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has a regional and global agenda, and fighting it needs some sort of a global coordinated, orchestrated approach.

Mullins: Well, of course, you're pointing to these seminal events that have happened. And these are the events. The question would be why are they happening in the first place because you're saying that they have forced Yemen to work against Al-Qaida on its own, that again, some would hear as a deflection. Because in fact, you have had cooperation certainly from the Americans who have had military personnel working with the government not only in terms of military training, but also in many other areas of the operations of the government for quite some time now. And that's still the case; there are still Americans on the ground there.

Qubaty: ...Fighting Al-Qaida doesn't want only some sort of immediate and short term measures, it needs middle term or medium term and long term as well approach. Obviously at the short and medium term we think that help from our partners regionally and internationally should go towards addressing the combat, data combat of these people.

Mullins: So specifically, what would that look like?

Qubaty: Yes, we have got a lot of troops. These troops need training -- modern weaponry, and the intelligence help to help us fight you know. On the mid term, at least you know, our friends in the region there, they have got to look into this big question -- we have got 200,000--300,000 graduates who are just roaming across the country. They have no jobs and they don't have the real knowledge or skill.

Mullins: Are you saying that Al-Qaida...

Qubaty: These people have got to be rehabilitated and we're sure that the economy in the area, in Yemen or in the GCC can absorb them.

Mullins: Are you saying though if they're not absorbed elsewhere that they might be attractive candidates for Al-Qaida even though they...

Qubaty: Yes, AL-Qaida, Al-Qaida has got a pool to tap from for sure.

Mullins: So it's clear that your government realizes that international security is as strong as Yemen's government is strong, right now.

Qubaty: Yes, that's for sure.

Mullins: Do you believe that your own government can survive the threat from Islamic militancy?

Qubaty: Yes, I believe that the government will survive this threat, but what, what is us, we could survive it. It's not going to be like Somalia and fall apart, we just worry that we're not actually going to be quite capable to shoulder our responsibility in securing this areas which are very much related to our brothers and our allies across the region.

If we find that you know, these things go out of control, then we will be suffering for sure, but our allies across the region and the world will also be suffering.

Mullins Dr. Mohammed Qubaty, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Yemen, very nice to speak with you.

Qubaty: Thank you very much, Lisa.