, Yemen — Yemen's government said Wednesday that it thwarted an al-Qaeda plot to to take over strategic ports and attack oil pipelines in the latest threat to foreign interests by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
More suspected U.S. drone strikes struck terrorist targets Wednesday in the country's south. The strikes killed seven suspected al-Qaeda terrorists, according to the Yemen government.
The embassies of the United States and Britain remained closed in Sanaa following the interception of a communication between al-Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula that suggested terror groups were planning an attack in the capital.
On Wednesday, hundreds of military vehicles were positioned around the city. Tanks and troops protected embassies and government offices and the airport.
A spokesman for the Yemen prime minister's office said Wednesday that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had been conspiring to attack several ports on Yemen's southern coast and on the western Red Sea shoreline.
The Arabian Sea ports of Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramaut, and Balhaf, farther west on the coast in Shabwa province, were said to be on the list of targets, according to press adviser Rajeh Badi.
Balhaf is home to the country's main gas liquefaction plant and liquefied natural gas export terminal, developed by Total.The ports are major installations for Yemen oil and gas and employ many foreign workers
International oil and gas companies including American Hunt Oil, Occidental Petroleum Corporation and Houston-based Schlumberger have already evacuated all their foreign staff in wake of the al-Qaeda terror alert raised by Washington last week.
"There were attempts to control key cities in Yemen like Mukala and Bawzeer," Badi said.
"This would be coordinated with attacks by al-Qaeda members on the gas facilities in Shebwa city and the blowing up of the gas pipe in Belhaf city," he said.
Badi said the plot included plans by militants to disguise themselves in military uniforms to carry out attacks on the 27th night of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, known as Laylat al-Qadr or the "Night of Destiny," which was last Sunday.
Details of the alleged plot emerged after Yemen's government criticized the USA and U.K. for their withdrawal of embassy staff Tuesday. Yemen's Foreign Ministry said the reaction undermined co-operation in the fight against terror and served "the interests of extremists."
The U.S. military flew Americans out of Yemen early Tuesday. The United States has closed 18 other embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa as well.
The double drone strike early Wednesday morning targeted two vehicles in one of the oil exploration blocks operated by Oxy in the southeastern province of Shabwa. It was the second drone attack in just over 24 hours.