Yemen has for long denied reports that Al Qaida has created a base in the country from which it recruits, trains and sends its members to carry out attacks in neighbouring countries.
Just last week, the government said those reports, the latest released last week and based on United States intelligence briefing, were exaggerating the threat.
However, President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Saturday acknowledged for the first time that the Al Qaida threat was a critical challenge for Yemen.
His government is faced with other significant security threats, such as the periodic flare-ups in a northern rebellion that last year drew in Saudi Arabia's military for several weeks as well as a growing secessionist movement in the south. But according to Saleh, the Al Qaida threat is the most dangerous. "This remains the last phase, which is the worst phase," Saleh said.
Hours before his speech, gunmen, believed to be from Al Qaida, attacked a security patrol in the southern city of Ja'ar, killing eight soldiers and setting their bodies on fire. Dozens of Yemeni soldiers have been killed in similar attacks in recent months.
The President has appealed to his people to support the government efforts in fighting those terrorists. "The citizens should stand by the side of the state. These terrorists ... are harming the nation's and the citizens' interests."
But it is unlikely the Yemeni government can do the job alone. It will take a collective effort involving other countries in the region, especially when the recruits come from different Arab states. Also, Al Qaida threatens the security of the entire region. It may be based in Yemen, but it threatens the stability of the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula.
Yemen needs the help of other states and must get it. Al Qaida terrorists should not be allowed to prevail.