(MENAFN - Arab News) Yemen yesterday put on trial nine Al-Qaeda suspects accused of involvement in a suicide attack in Sanaa that killed 86 soldiers last May. The hearing was being held under tight security, an AFP correspondent reported.
The defendants, identified as members of a group known as the "Saawan cell," are accused of having "planned to assassinate security leaderships and targeting civilian and military establishments using explosive belts and silent guns," according to the chargesheet read out in the court.
They are also accused of participating in the May 21, 2012 attack that killed 86 soldiers and wounded 173, the chargesheet added. Al-Qaeda had claimed responsibility for the blast, which it said was aimed at Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed and his aides. The minister escaped unharmed.
The attack saw a man dressed as a soldier detonate explosives under his uniform in the middle of a battalion. The massive blast echoed loudly across Sanaa, causing panic among residents. It was the biggest assault on Yemeni troops since President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi came to power in February last year, following a year long uprising that ousted his predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh.
After the charges were read, one of the defendants, 24-year-old Hisham Sharaabi, shouted: "This case is political and involves high-ranking officials." The defendants denied the charges and claimed they had confessed under pressure.
Prosecutors have demanded capital punishment for the nine, who are also charged with "joining Al-Qaeda and taking jihadist and incitement lessons from Ansar Al-Shariah in Abyan," said the judge, referring to jihadists who fought the army for over a year across south Yemen.
The next hearing will take place on Jan. 21.