Yemen court clears 5 Saudis over Qaeda-linked plot

AFP , Thursday 12 Sep 2013

Saudi nationals associated with Al-Qaeda regularly cross border illegally to join militant activity in southern, eastern Yemen

A Sanaa court on Thursday cleared five Saudi nationals on charges of joining an Al-Qaeda plot to attack Yemen's security forces but jailed two of them for entering the country illegally.

The five, arrested in June, faced charges of plotting "in association with an armed group belonging to Al-Qaeda to carry out criminal acts against members of the security forces in Yemen," official media reported earlier this month.

They were cleared of the charges on Thursday for lack of evidence, according to the verdict read by judge Hilal Mahfal at a lower court in Sanaa.

Two of the group however were sentenced to 18 months in prison each after being convicted of forging identity documents and entering Yemen illegally, an AFP correspondent at court reported.

The other three are to be freed.

Yemen is the ancestral home of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and home base of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the network's deadliest franchise according to the United States.

AQAP was formed in January 2009 as a merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of Al-Qaeda, and Saudi nationals regularly cross the border illegally to join the ranks of the jihadists.

Its militants took advantage of a decline in central government control during a 2011 uprising that forced veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power to seize large swathes of territory across the south.

They were driven back in June 2012 and have been increasingly weakened mainly due to US drone attacks. But they remain active in the south and east of Yemen and regularly carry out hit-and-run attacks on the security forces.

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