SAN'A, Yemen – An Al Qaeda terrorist who blew himself up after being cornered by Yemeni security forces was related to one of the Sept. 11 hijackers, officials said Thursday.
Sameer Mohammed Ahmed al-Hada, who died in a confrontation with police Wednesday, was a brother-in-law of Khalid Almihdar, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
Al-Hada, 25, was also a brother-in-law of one of 17 men named by the FBI in an alert issued Monday warning of a possible terrorist attack in Yemen or the United States, according to a U.S. government source, speaking on condition of anonymity. They did not say which of the 17 was al-Hada's brother-in-law.
The Yemeni security officials said al-Hada had been under surveillance for more than a week.
They said al-Hada had a brother, whom they didn't identify further, who was an explosives expert. He was killed in Afghanistan, the officials said, without providing further details.
Al-Hada was the son of Ahmad Mohammad Ali al-Hada, a known Al Qaeda operative, according to a U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. However, the suspect's name does not appear on a U.S.-produced list of Yemenis believed to be suspected Al Qaeda members.
The officials said when al-Hada realized security forces were closing in on him, he fled his house and took a taxi along with his wife and two other men.
He was chased through the streets of San'a and a gunbattle ensued. Al-Hada attempted to throw a grenade at police and it exploded in his hand, the officials said.
His wife tried to flee but was captured. The two men accompanying him escaped, the officials said.
Police arrested a man who was sitting in a car outside al-Hada's house at the time, the officials said on condition of anonymity. No further details on the arrest were available.
The explosion near San`a University came two days after the FBI issued a warning of more terrorist attacks — either in the United States or against U.S. interests in Yemen. It identified 17 men believed to be involved in the plans.
The warning identified the possible ringleader as Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeei, a Yemeni citizen born in 1979 in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. official said al-Rabeei is believed to have links to Al Qaeda but is not believed to have been involved in the attack against the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in October 2000 that killed 17 U.S. sailors.
At least two terror suspects believed to be in Yemen, Qaed Salim Sunian al-Harethi, allegedly a top Al Qaeda official, and Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, are wanted by the United States for the Cole attack.
Police said that they had learned about al-Hada from his landlord.
According to the police, the rental contract had ended and his landlord asked al-Hada for documents to renew the contract. Al-Hada did not provide the documents and the landlord informed the police.
The police began inquiries and learned he was an active Al Qaeda member in Yemen and that he had also been to Afghanistan. They did not specify when he was there.
Neighbors told the AP that al-Hada spent most of his time inside his house, rarely had visitors and had claimed to be a San`a University student.
Following Wednesday's explosion, security officers searched al-Hada's house, seizing two pistols, documents, books, a mobile telephone and a piece of paper containing telephone numbers, police said.
Yemeni Interior Ministry officials said they informed U.S. Embassy staff in San`a of Wednesday's incident. Other police sources said both FBI investigators and Yemeni security officers are studying the documents taken from al-Hada's house.
Yemen's government admits there may be Al Qaeda suspects in the country, but says the network has no military training camps or any other organized presence.
Yemen, the poorest country of the Arabian Peninsula, has committed itself to joining the U.S. war on terrorism. But Yemeni officials say this cannot be done without U.S. training, military assistance and aid.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.