Dubai: A suspected militant cell detained in the United Arab Emirates had links to Al Qaida, Dubai’s police chief has said, including the Yemen-based wing that is widely regarded as one of its most effective affiliates.
Dahi Khalfan also said the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran were among the main security threats to Gulf states because they wanted to export revolution to the region.
UAE authorities announced the arrest of the cell on December 26 in a joint operation with Saudi Arabia.
“They are adherents of Al Qaida and its misguided doctrine,” Dahi said in an interview with the Saudi-owned Asharq Al Awsat newspaper published on Wednesday. “Some of the [cell] members are affiliated with Al Qaida in Yemen.”
The group planned bomb attacks against targets in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other states in the region rather than targeting individuals for assassination, he added.
The Dubai police chief said he was concerned that members of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were making their way to the Gulf but said Saudi anti-terrorism efforts had reduced Al Qaida’s threat in the region.
AQAP, formed in 2009 after a merger of Al Qaida’s Yemeni and Saudi branches, remains a potent threat. In 2010, it claimed responsibility for two sophisticated parcel bombs sent to the United States. The bombs were intercepted in Britain and Dubai before they could explode.
In August, Saudi authorities arrested a group of suspected Al Qaida-linked militants — mostly Yemeni nationals — in the capital Riyadh, suggesting the group remained highly active.
Washington has backed a political transition in Yemen and stepped up drone strikes on suspected militants there to try to curb the group’s influence and prevent a spillover of violence into Saudi Arabia.
But Dahi said Al Qaida was not the only security threat concerning the UAE. The Muslim Brotherhood — who swept to power in Egypt as a result of the Arab Spring — and Iran were “both a menace to the region”.
He said: “I think Iran and the [Muslim] Brothers’ menace is similar. They both want to export the revolution. What the Muslim Brothers are aiming for at the moment is to shred and denigrate the reputation of the Gulf rulers.”