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Tue 26 Feb 2008 12:28 PM

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Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for Yemen attacks

Group behind strike in January and another in July, web monitoring group says.

Al-Qaeda's wing in Yemen has claimed responsibility for separate attacks on groups of Belgian and Spanish tourists in the impoverished country, a web monitoring group said on Tuesday.

The "Jund Al-Yemen Brigades" said in an internet statement that it was behind a strike in January which killed two Belgians and another in July which left seven Spaniards dead, the SITE Intelligence Group reported.

The militant group said it carried out the "blessed operations" to support besieged Muslims around the world and to avenge the capture and killing of fellow Al-Qaeda militants.

Yemeni officials previously blamed Al-Qaeda militants for both attacks.

SITE said it could not verify the authenticity of the statement, which was posted on an internet forum often used by Islamic militants and which also claimed responsibility for attacks on Yemeni security forces in April and November last year.

Two Belgian women tourists were among four people killed, and four more Belgians wounded when suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen opened fire on their bus in the eastern province of Hadramut's Do'an Valley on January 19.

Last July, seven Spanish tourists and two local drivers were killed when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into their convoy at an ancient temple.

That bombing was the worst attack against Westerners in Yemen since Al-Qaeda extremists struck the USS Cole off the southern port of Aden in 2000, killing 17 US sailors.

Al-Qaeda has been blamed for a series of attacks in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of its leader, Osama bin Laden. Some of them predated the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US.

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