Yemen Warns of Secret Extremist Schools

San'a, Yemen - Underground religious schools that promote extremist forms of Islam are drawing more than 300,000 young students across Yemen, the country's prime minister said Saturday.

Prime Minister Abdul-Kader Bajammal warned that the religious education promoting the ideas of Wahhabism, a strict form of Islam, "will bring a disaster to Yemen and this generation." He promised to eliminate the underground schools, which he estimated numbered about 4,000 and drew about 330,000 students.

"We are not against the religious education ... but we are against extremism," he said in a speech to teachers and Education Ministry officials.

Bajammal said that the government will not remain silent over what he described as "crimes committed against our children and the next generations."

Like many Persian Gulf countries, Yemen — the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden — largely funded and did not interfere with religious schools before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States

After the attacks, the country initiated an anti-terrorism state policy and began monitoring what was being taught, attaching conditions to financial assistance and shutting down the Religious Institutions Department in the Education Ministry.

Religious officials have condemned the government for its policy change.

It was in the southern Yemeni port of Aden that the USS Cole was bombed in 2000, killing 17 American sailors.