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Monday, November 4, 2002

Helicopter carrying U.S. oil company employees fired on in Yemen, two slightly injured

By AHMED AL-HAJ
Associated Press Writer

SAN'A, Yemen (AP) - A helicopter carrying U.S. oil company employees came under small-arms fire Sunday just after takeoff, forcing an emergency landing at San'a airport that slightly injured two people, officials said.

Two Hunt Corp. employees reported "minor scratches" and received first aid on the scene, said Jim Oberwetter, a Hunt spokesman at the company's Dallas headquarters. Airport medical workers confirmed there were no serious injuries.

It was not clear who was responsible for the shooting. Police were searching the area around the airport from where shots were fired.

A Yemeni security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that the helicopter was heading to oil fields in the northern province of Marib when it was shot at from an area near the airport.

The number of passengers and their nationalities were not clear. The U.S. Embassy said it had no knowledge of the incident.

Oberwetter said in a brief statement that the helicopter was contracted from Abu Dhabi Aviation to carry Hunt employees to the company's oilfields.

It "was struck by small arms fire in the vicinity of the San'a airport today and safely returned to base," he said.

Oberwetter said the Yemeni government was investigating.

Beyond tribal disputes, Yemen long has tolerated Muslim extremists. It is also the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, whose al-Qaida terror network is blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks and the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen that left killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Last month, a blast caused by an explosive-laden boat crippled a French oil tanker off Yemen, killing a Bulgarian crew member and spilling 90,000 barrels of crude oil.

Six suspected Muslim militants were killed in Yemen on Monday in a car explosion, a security official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the blast occurred at dawn in the northern province of Marib, about 100 miles northwest of the capital San'a.

"Investigators haven't been able to identify the bodies yet but given the magnitude of the explosion, they believe the men belonged to a radical Islamic group," the official said, without elaborating.

It was unclear how the blast happened. The official said the car was moving when it exploded, but he did not say if the blast might have occurred accidentally while the explosives were being transported.

Beyond tribal disputes, Yemen long has tolerated Muslim extremists. It is also the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, whose al-Qaida terror network is blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks and the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen that left killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Last month, a blast caused by an explosive-laden boat crippled a French oil tanker off Yemen, killing a Bulgarian crew member and spilling 90,000 barrels of crude oil.

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