Yemen says it foiled major al Qaeda plot

Yemen said Wednesday that it had foiled an al Qaeda terror plot to take over port cities in the south of the country and blow up oil pipelines.

The operation comes amid U.S. concerns about a potential terror threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates, which prompted the closing of 19 embassies across the Middle East and Africa, including in Yemen, through the weekend. The U.S. on Tuesday evacuated most embassy personnel from Yemen and stepped up its drone attacks in the country.

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A new suspected U.S. strike in southern Yemen killed seven al Qaeda militants Wednesday, the BBC reported. It was the fifth drone attack in Yemen in the past two weeks.

Yemeni government spokesman Rageh Badi said that the broken up terror plot included plans for al Qaeda militants to target the cities of Mukalla and Bawzeer, according to the Associated Press

Militants disguised as Yemeni troops also intended to attack two oil ports as part of the offensive.

Badi told the AP the militants hoped to sabotage oil pipelines to "create panic among Yemeni army and Yemeni security services."

Yemen has been the focal point of the potential terrorist threat that prompted the U.S. embassy closings, with the move reportedly prompted by intercepted communications between Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri.

The Yemeni government has recently stepped up its efforts to target AQAP and try to flush out al Qaeda strongholds in the southern part of the country.