SANA, Yemen — A day after the United States and Britain moved to withdraw personnel from Yemen after days of embassy closures and security alarms, security officials said on Wednesday that the authorities here had foiled an audacious plot by Al Qaeda to seize an important port using militants in Army uniforms to kidnap and kill foreigners there.
At the same time, the officials, who spoke in return for anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters, said a fresh drone strike in the southeast of the country killed seven people on Wednesday. An earlier strike killed four on Tuesday.
The depiction of the foiled plot was the first indication of the reasons behind the growing Western concerns for the safety of their nationals. Intercepts of a secret correspondence between Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of Al Qaeda, and Nasir ul-Wuhayshi, the leader of the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, inspired deep concern inside the American government about a possible terrorist plot by the group.
Those fears prompted a mass closing of American and other Western diplomatic outposts. American government officials said that Mr. Zawahri used the communication to urge the Yemeni militant leader to carry out a large terrorist attack.
Yemeni security officials said part of the militant operation included a plan to take control of the Canadian-run Mina al-Dhaba oil terminal in the Mukallah region on the Arabian Sea in the southeast of the country. The officials did not say how the plot had been disrupted.
The plan would have involved many Qaeda operatives wearing Yemeni Army uniforms to seize the port and then attack, kill or kidnap foreigners working there, the officials said. It was not clear if the disruption of the purported plan was linked to a spate of recent American drone strikes.
The security officials said the latest attack hit members of a Bedouin tribe some 40 miles west of Attaq in the south-eastern Shabwah area. It was the fifth known American strike in the last two weeks, part of an intensified campaign to disrupt the suspected plots that led to the embassy closings.
The BBC earlier quoted a Yemeni government spokesman as saying the foiled plots were more extensive, involving plans to blow up oil pipelines and take over two ports in the south, threatening Yemen’s oil exports.
A spokesman for the Yemeni authorities said they had foiled plans to blow up oil pipelines and take control of key cities – including two ports in the south, one of which accounts for the bulk of Yemen’s oil exports.
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