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SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen has foiled a plot by an al Qaeda-linked cell to carry out attacks inside the capital Sanaa and seized 40 belts packed with explosives, the mayor said on Wednesday, highlighting the risks posed by Islamist militancy in the impoverished Arab state.
The Defence Ministry said seven militants had also been detained in the southern town of Jaar, where a suicide bomber killed 45 tribal fighters earlier this week and threatened further attacks on a bigger scale.
Yemen declared victory in June over Islamist militants calling themselves Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), following a U.S.-backed military campaign that drove Islamist fighters from their strongholds in the southern province of Abyan, where they had gained a foothold.
But militants have shown they continue to pose a serious threat, despite losing control over several towns they had seized while former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh was grappling with protests that eventually toppled him.
"A group of the cell's members was arrested and the rest are being pursued," the mayor of Sanaa, Abdul Qader Hilal, told Reuters.
The seven men arrested separately in Jaar included a Somali national and a militant leader known as Abu Musaab who was responsible for al Qaeda's finances in Abyan, the Defence Ministry said on its website.
Ansar al-Sharia is linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which U.S. officials have described as the most dangerous offshoot of the global militant network.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa and Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Andrew Osborn)
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