SANAA: Yemen's Council of Clerics yesterday called for jihad if foreign troops join the war against Al Qaeda in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country, as the government vowed to eradicate the extremists.
"If any party insists on aggression, or invades the country, then according to Islam, jihad becomes obligatory," said a statement signed by 150 clerics read at a news conference.
The clerics strongly rejected "any foreign intervention in Yemeni affairs, whether political or military." The clerics include the radical Sheikh Abdulmajeed Al Zendani, who is labelled by the US administration as a "global terrorist."
They also rejected "any security or military agreement or cooperation between Yemen and any foreign party if it violates Sharia law.
The chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, urged Washington to consider targeting Al Qaeda militants in Yemen with armed drones, air strikes or covert operations, but not invade the country.
Al Qaeda's faction in Yemen, claimed responsibility for a botched Christmas Day attack on a US airliner, and Washington has accused the group of training the alleged assailant, Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Al Zendani warned that any US military intervention in Yemen to fight Al Qaeda would be considered an occupation.
The Sanaa government has intensified its operations against Al Qaeda, insisting that it can tackle the militants on its own, without the need for foreign military intervention.
"Yemen is not Afghanistan, nor Pakistan, where terrorists constantly launch attacks while the authorities try to respond.
"Here, we anticipate the threat. Yemen is not a hideout for the terrorists and never will be," Yemen's head of national security, Ali Anisi, said.
One of the members of the Council of Clerics, Sheikh Saleh Salabani, was blunt in predicting failure for the Americans if they get involved.
US strikes, he says, would "drive the populace into the arms of Al Qaeda."
That was echoed by Dominique Thomas, a specialist in Islamic networks at the prestigious School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences in Paris.
"American missiles hitting Yemeni houses is just what Al Qaeda is waiting for.
"It takes very little to attract unemployed youth to jihadism or to persuade traditionally rebellious tribes to rise up; if the Americans step in, it will be like dropping a present right in Bin Laden's lap."
Meanwhile, pro-government Yemen tribesmen have killed 10 Shi'ite rebels after they tried to take up positions in homes in a northern town, the interior ministry said yesterday.