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US considers AQAP as biggest threat outside Af-Pak region

world Updated: Nov 02, 2010 13:07 IST

The unearthing of the plot to send parcel bombs on air to the US has greatly shifted America's attention to Yemen and the Obama administration is now exploring options on how to handle terrorism lead by al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula in that country.

Officials now consider al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as the most potent threat to the US outside of the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan where the top al Qaeda leaders are based.

The timely unearthing of the plot, in which explosive laden courier packages were enroute to the US before they were seized in Dubai and London, officials said reflects the seriousness of the threat and the urgency to deal with terrorism in Yemen.

Obama's top counter-terrorism official, John Brennan, himself is in touch with the top Yemeni leadership including its President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"We are working with Yemen as a government in the aftermath of Friday's episode, and I would say that we are pleased with the cooperation that Yemen has shown in the last 72 hours.

"But as we go forward, we'll obviously learn from this incident, just as we learned from the Christmas Day bomber 10 months ago, and adapt our programmes appropriately," State Department spokesman P J Crowley told reporters at his daily news conference.

"We believe that Yemen has made significant improvements in its security and counterterrorism capability, but obviously that stems from a still limited capacity that Yemen has," he said.

Crowley pointed out that Yemen was the poorest country in the region, and the US efforts are geared towards steadily increasing Yemen's ability to deal with violent extremists who are a threat to itself as well as to the US.

"Yemen is a very complex society. It's got a history involving a former division of the country into north and south Yemen. It does have a variety of conflicts that are going on inside its borders. Yemen is sovereign and has to deal with what it believes to be threats to its own security," he noted.

The Pentagon yesterday termed it as a serious threat to the US, but praised Yemeni officials for their stand against the terror group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

"It's a serious threat, and it's a threat not only to Yemen, but the US and other regional interests," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters in an off-camera briefing.

Whitman said Pentagon has been working with Yemen to implement "a holistic approach" to address security and counterterrorism concerns in the nation.