Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he is ready to hold a dialogue with members of al-Qaeda, whose local branch was behind a plot to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day, if they renounce violence.
“We are ready to talk to any person who gives up violence and extremism,” Saleh said in an interview with Abu Dhabi TV posted today on the state news service Saba. If al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group’s Yemeni arm, continues terrorist acts, the government will keep going after it, he said.
The U.S. is doubling its security assistance to Yemen to about $150 million in the current fiscal year, General David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in the region, said in an interview to be aired today on CNN.
“There is an enormous incentive here for President Saleh and the government of Yemen, indeed, to confront al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the growth that we have seen in its training camp structure and the other infrastructure that they’ve been able to establish in recent years,” Petraeus said.
Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for a Dec. 25 plot in which Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was charged with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight with 278 passengers as it landed in Detroit.
Al-Qaeda’s leader in Yemen and a Muslim cleric, who were both linked to the U.S. airliner plot, survived a Yemeni bombing raid last month, Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper reported, citing a regional official.
Al-Qaeda Leaders Nasir al-Wuhayshi and religious leader Anwar al-Awlaki are hiding in a mountainous area between the southeastern provinces of Shabwa and Abyan, the governor of Shabwa, Ali Hassan al- Ahmadi, was quoted as saying by the London-based daily.
Al-Ahmadi said dozens of Egyptian and Saudi al-Qaeda militants have joined Yemeni members of the group in their Yemeni mountain bases.
John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, said on Jan. 3 that there are “probably several hundred” al-Qaeda members in Yemen and the U.S. worries they may be training other operatives for attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere similar to the one attempted by Abdulmutallab.