Six Americans among more than 100 religious students

SAN`A, Yemen - Six Americans are among more than 100 Islamic religious students being sent home for visa violations, a Yemeni Interior Ministry official said in comments reported Thursday.

Foreign students at independent religious schools like the one attended by American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh have come under scrutiny in Yemen as the government cracks down on extremists.

The military newspaper 26 September quoted Deputy Interior Minister Mutahar Rashid al-Masri as saying that in addition to the Americans, there are six Britons, one Dutch man, 22 Indonesians, six Pakistanis, four Libyans, two Egyptians and one Syrian.

Four Britons and the Dutch man have already been deported, according to the ministry.

Although al-Masri said there were 101 students, other Interior Ministry officials previously said the total was 115. The students also include French, Algerian, Sudanese and Somali citizens.

Some of the students have been in custody as long as four months. Authorities detained them for questioning about any links to radical Islamic groups.

The government has begun a crackdown on religious institutions, closing illegally operating fundamentalist schools and bringing hundreds of others under direct government control through the imposition of a national curriculum.

The British and Dutch embassies have previously confirmed their nationals were among the detainees. U.S. Embassy officials could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Lindh arrived in Yemen two years ago to study Arabic and Islam and later attended a conservative religious school here. From Yemen he apparently went to Pakistan and on to Afghanistan. He was captured in November near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif after an uprising by Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners there.

The newspaper also reported that 54 Yemenis are being held in Afghanistan apparently for being al-Qaida or Taliban fighters.

In December, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said his country was trying to repatriate 400 to 500 citizens from Afghanistan. Saleh did not give any details or say whether the citizens were members of al-Qaida.