A senior Yemeni official warned Tuesday that there are hundreds of Al Qaeda operatives in his country who are planning to carry out terrorist attacks. Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi's call for help from the international community to help train Yemeni security forces came one day after Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the plot to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day .
"Of course there are a number of Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen and some of their leaders. We realize this danger," Al-Qirbi said. "They may actually plan attacks like the one we have just had in Detroit. There are maybe hundreds of them - 200, 300."
Al -Qirbi said the United States, Great Britain and the European Union should provide more support for Yemen's counterterror efforts. "There is support, but I must say it is inadequate. We need more training. We have to expand our counterterrorism units and provide them with equipment and transportation like helicopters," he said.
Al-Qirbi added that Yemen and the West needed to work in "partnership" to ensure that the terror problem "will be brought under control."
U.S. officials counter that they have finally convinced the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to accept increased help in fighting Al Qaeda. They say that a visit last summer by Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, and President Obama's counterterrorism advisor John Brennan persuaded Saleh of the importance in working with Washington against Al Qaeda.
U.S. assistance to Yemen reportedly includes security and military aid along with counterterrorism training. Read more here.
But mounting evidence that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempted suicide attack was planned in Yemen show that that nation's counterterrorism efforts have a long way to go. Federal authorities say Abdulmutallab told them he made contact with an unidentified radical imam in Yemen who put him in touch with Al Qaeda leaders in a village north of Sanaa.
Abdulmutallab said he lived with the Al Qaeda leader in Yemen and was not permitted to leave as he was trained to carry out an attack. He was eventually joined by an Al Qaeda bombmaker. Authorities have said the device intended to blow up the Northwest plane, consisting of a six-inch packet of powder and a syringe with a liquid, was made in Yemen.