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Yemeni forces raid hideout

The Associated Press. This image provided by IntelCenter Wednesday and taken from a video released Jan. 23, 2009, by al-Malahim Media Foundation, the media arm of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, shows men whom IntelCenter identifies as the senior leaders of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, from left to right: Abu Hurayrah Qasim al-Reemi, Said al-Shihri, Naser Abdel Karim al-Wahishi, alias Abu Basir, and Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi.

The Associated Press. This image provided by IntelCenter Wednesday and taken from a video released Jan. 23, 2009, by al-Malahim Media Foundation, the media arm of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, shows men whom IntelCenter identifies as the senior leaders of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, from left to right: Abu Hurayrah Qasim al-Reemi, Said al-Shihri, Naser Abdel Karim al-Wahishi, alias Abu Basir, and Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi.

SAN'A, Yemen -- Yemeni forces raided an al-Qaida hideout and set off a gunbattle Wednesday as the government vowed to eliminate the group that claimed it was behind the Christmas bombing attempt on a U.S. airliner.

The fighting took place in an al-Qaida stronghold in western Yemen, haven for a group that attacked the U.S. Embassy here in 2008, killing 10 Yemeni guards and four civilians. A government statement said at least one suspected militant was arrested during the clashes.

''The (Interior) Ministry will continue tracking down al-Qaida terrorists and will continue its strikes against the group until it is totally eliminated,'' Deputy Interior Minister Brig. Gen. Saleh al-Zawari told senior military officials at a meeting in Mareb, another province believed to shelter al-Qaida fighters.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden's group, claimed it was behind the attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner. Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old passenger, was arrested Friday after he allegedly tried to bring down the Northwest Airlines flight, carrying 289 people.

U.S. investigators said Abdulmutallab told them he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen. Yemen's government has said Abdulmutallab spent two periods in the country, from 2004-05 and from August to December of this year, just before the attempted attack.

Abdulmutallab's Yemen connection has drawn attention to al-Qaida's growing presence in the impoverished and lawless country, which is located on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia.

Wednesday's clashes took place in Hudaydah province, an al-Qaida stronghold along the Red Sea coast. A security official said the target was a house owned by an al-Qaida sympathizer. The official said the owner was arrested, a suspected al-Qaida member was injured and several militants who fled were being pursued. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Before Wednesday's clashes, Yemeni forces backed by U.S. intelligence carried out two major strikes against al-Qaida hideouts this month, reportedly killing more than 60 militants.

The United States has increasingly provided intelligence, surveillance and training to Yemeni forces during the past year, and has provided some firepower, according to a senior U.S. defense official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the subject.

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said Yemen received $67 million in training and support under the Pentagon's counterterrorism program last year, second only to some $112 million spent in Pakistan.