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Yemen arrests Qaeda militants over officer's death

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen has arrested four militants over the drive-by killing of a senior intelligence officer, including two suspects that police believe are linked to al Qaeda, security sources said on Saturday.

Two motorcycle gunmen shot dead Colonel Saleh Amtheib on Thursday as he relaxed outside his home after lunch. He was the second security officer gunned down in the southern Abyan province in less than a month.

Two of those arrested over the attack were previously suspected of belonging to al Qaeda, while the others had been unknown to authorities, the sources said. Security forces also confiscated a gun they said was used in the shooting.

Authorities had initially been uncertain whom to blame for the killing, the sources said. The officer had participated in the government’s battles against al Qaeda and also in a separate conflict with armed south Yemen separatists.

Yemen, neighbor to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has been a growing security concern for the West since a Yemen-based regional arm of al Qaeda claimed responsibility for an unsuccessful attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December.

Yemen has stepped up security measures after accusing al Qaeda of a June 19 attack on the police intelligence building in the southern city of Aden, killing 11 people.

Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Peter Graff