SANAA (Reuters) - A tribal leader suspected of links to al Qaeda has been given an ultimatum to surrender to pro-government forces besieging his home in south Yemen on Tuesday or be seized by force, an official said.
Tarek al-Fadli, who was raised in Saudi Arabia and fought in Afghanistan, heads a tribe in Abyan province. He took refuge in the mountains over the summer as a U.S.-backed military onslaught drove militants linked to al Qaeda from southern towns.
Fadli’s return to his home in the port city of Zinjibar on Monday has led to an armed standoff between his supporters and hundreds of troops and militiamen allied to the government.
“We gave him a warning to surrender himself right away, otherwise he will be forced out of the house by security,” the security official from Abyan told Reuters. A deadline for Fadli to give himself up was due to expire on Tuesday afternoon.
The standoff highlights the challenges facing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in trying to assert state authority following the uprising that began in Yemen last year and forced president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power in February.
Impoverished Yemen adjoins the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia. Its wealthier Gulf neighbors and Washington are concerned that al Qaeda and other Islamist fighters operating there could pose a threat to Saudi Arabia and nearby oil shipping channels.
Reporting by Mohamed Ghobari; Writing by Amena Bakr; Editing by Andrew Roche