SAN'A, Yemen – Yemeni tribes in provinces on the Saudi Arabian border warned the United States on Friday not to launch military attacks on their territories as part of the war on terrorism, saying it would be "a strategic mistake."
The statement came a day after Pentagon officials said U.S. soldiers have begun arriving in Yemen to train troops in the war against terrorism. About 30 Army Green Berets are in the southern Arabian peninsula state and more are expected to arrive.
The statement was issued by tribes in the Shabwah, Jawf and Marib provinces, where suspected members of Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror network are believed to have been active. The tribes said they are not hiding two Al Qaeda members wanted by the United States.
"The involvement of any foreign force, especially the United States of America, in what is being circulated about a possibility of a military strike against specific areas will, for sure, be a grave strategic mistake and does not come in the frame of fighting terrorism," the statement said.
Qaed Salim Sunian al-Harethi and Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, both Yemeni, are on a list of Al Qaeda suspects U.S. investigators want to question over alleged links to bin Laden.
"These two persons are not under the protection of any tribe or in any area" on the border, the statement said, adding the tribes condemned all kinds of terrorism.
Yemeni authorities say the men are in hiding and travel in the provinces under the protection of armed tribesmen.
In December, Yemeni forces trained and equipped with U.S. help attacked a tribe believed to be harboring the men. Clashes killed 18 soldiers and six tribesmen.
For months, Yemeni special forces and army troops have been patrolling the border to prevent infiltration by Al Qaeda members to or from Saudi Arabia.
Yemen, an impoverished state, committed itself to joining the war on terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks. Security in Yemen has been a top U.S. concern since the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole killed 17 American sailors in Aden harbor.