SAN'A, Yemen – Yemeni prosecutors brought 16 suspected Al Qaeda members to trial Wednesday on terrorism charges that include an attack on the American embassy and killings of foreigners in Yemen.
The men — 14 Yemenis and two Syrians — stood inside a courthouse in the capital San'a as their trial started and heard the charges against them. The hearings were then adjourned.
The prosecution alleged the suspects formed an Al Qaeda cell that masterminded a spate of attacks. The men were arrested on separate occasions between 2007 and 2008.
Some of them are accused of firing a volley of mortars at the U.S. embassy compound in March 2008. The mortars hit an adjacent girls high school instead, killing a Yemeni guard and wounding dozens of schoolgirls.
The charges also include 23 other terrorists acts, such as the Jan. 2008 killing of two female Belgian tourists, attacking a foreigners' residential compound in Hadramout province and clashes with police in which an Al Qaeda militant leader was killed.
Al Qaeda has for years maintained a strong presence in Yemen — an impoverished country on the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula that is also the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden.
In recent years, Yemen has cooperated with the U.S. in fighting terrorism, but its government has struggled to confront Islamic extremists.
Yemen has also seen numerous high-profile, Al Qaeda-linked attacks, including the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the Gulf of Aden, which killed 17 American sailors.
A Sept. 2008 attack on the U.S. Embassy involving gunmen and explosives-packed vehicles killed 17 people, including six militants. Al Qaeda later claimed responsibility for that attack.