Two French citizens among al Qaeda members held in Yemen: security source

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni security forces arrested two men holding French citizenship who were members of an al-Qaeda cell in Yemen, an official security source told Reuters on Friday.

The men were arrested on Thursday while trying to leave through one of the country's airports, the source said.

The two men were identified as Mourad Abdulla Abad and Taha al-Issawi, both of Tunisian origin but holding French citizenship, the source said, adding that they belonged to an al Qaeda cell in Yemen's eastern Hadramout province.

The French embassy in Yemen was not available to comment.

Western countries fear further destabilization in Yemen, which also faces separatists in the south and unrest in the north, could give more space to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the local branch of the global Islamist militant movement, to plot attacks on international targets.

Earlier this week, Yemeni government forces captured al Qaeda's main stronghold in the south of the country after insurgents blew up the local government compound there and fled.

The army had intensified an offensive to root out foreign and local Islamist fighters holed up in some of the country's most impenetrable areas.

Yemen's state news agency Saba had quoted a military source as saying that most of the militants killed in Sunday's fighting were Saudis, Afghans, Somalis and Chechens, as well as other nationalities.

(Reporting by Mohamed Ghobari; Writing by Amena Bakr; Editing by Toby Chopra)