SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A Yemeni court on Tuesday sentenced 11 convicted al-Qaida militants to up to 10 years in prison for forming armed gangs to destabilize the country and planning attacks on foreign embassies and security forces.
The sentencing came as militants attacked a military camp in the central town of Radda, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Sanaa, setting off clashes that killed three soldiers and eight militants. Radda was briefly seized by al-Qaida militants last year before the Yemeni government waged an offensive to drive them out.
The militants, who took refuge in other areas in the central province where Radda is located, have been trying to return to the town.
During Yemen’s 2011 uprising, al-Qaida occupied large swaths of land and towns in the south before being driven out to mountainous areas by the new government. Since then the group has retaliated with assassinations and bombings at military compounds.
In the court in Sanaa, Ahmed al-Hababi, one of the defendants, threatened to kill the judge, shouting, “we will teach you a lesson and we will drag you on the ground.” Two raised an al-Qaida flag inside the defendants’ cage. Others shouted “God is great” in Arabic.
In another trial on Tuesday, a court in Aden, Yemen’s second largest city, began trying nine Yemenis for smuggling Iranian-made weapons on a ship. Eight were captured in January in the country’s territorial waters and one was tried in absentia. The trial was adjourned until April 30.
In another development, Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned from Saudi Arabia after medical treatment, his office said Tuesday. Saleh left earlier this month. He has been under international pressure to leave the country over accusations that he is trying to undermine the country’s transition.
Saleh stepped down in February 2012 and was replaced by his deputy. He spent time in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. last year for medical treatment for serious burns sustained in a June 2011 assassination attempt.