Police in Yemen arrest 15 suspects in suicide attack case

Security services clashed with Islamic fundamentalists as they stormed apartments in the Yemeni capital on Thursday to detain suspects in having provided support to a suicide bomber who killed seven Spanish tourists.

At least one fundamentalist - an Egyptian national - was killed in the gunfight and two Yemeni armed forces were wounded, the Yemeni official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to the media.

He said some 15 people were detained, including three alleged al-Qaida members suspected of having provided assistance to the group that undertook the attack on Monday. He did not specify what kind of support the men were accused of, but said authorities were still looking for three other suspects believed to have provided fire cover for the suicide bomber.

Seven Spaniards and two Yemenis died in the attack when then suicide bomber rammed his car into a group of tourists visiting the ruins of a temple linked to the ancient Queen of Sheba.

The attack came less than two weeks after the U.S. Embassy warned Americans to avoid the area around the temple in northern Yemen, which until recent years was rarely visited because of frequent kidnappings of foreigners.

The police raids and arrests took place in the capital, San'a, coastal towns and the northeastern province of Marib where the attack took place. Yemen security forces have also deployed in the capital to protect embassies, government buildings and top state officials.

Spain has flown home five bandaged survivors of the attack, and sent Spanish police specialists to support local investigators.

A sixth wounded tourist remained in a Yemeni hospital to undergo a second operation and was reported to be in serious condition, Spanish authorities said.

Yemeni security officials said Tuesday that they had been warned about a possible al-Qaida attack, but they did not think it would be a suicide bombing against tourists. They said al-Qaida had warned it would attack Yemeni oil facilities, government institutions and foreign embassies.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has offered a $76,000 (euro56,000) reward for any information about those responsible for the attack.

On Thursday, a government-sponsored protest also gathered some 1,500 Yemenis in the capital to denounce terrorism in their country.

"Islam is innocent of these murders," demonstrators chanted as they marched close to the Spanish embassy in San'a.