SANAA, June 19 (Reuters) - Yemen has foiled a plot to attack foreign embassies in the capital Sanaa, a police source said on Tuesday, days after the army drove al Qaeda-linked militants from their strongholds in the south of the country.
The source said police in Sanaa had stopped a vehicle carrying three people who had weapons, explosives and maps with foreign embassies and the homes of military and civilian figures marked out.
"The preliminary investigations showed that the group was planning to target foreign interests," said the source.
Yemeni troops last week regained control of several towns in the southern province of Abyan, which Islamist militants had seized last year during political upheaval that eventually toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
But the assassination of a top southern military commander in the port city of Aden on Monday showed the militants are still capable of carrying out attacks and highlighted the tenuous grip of Yemen's central authorities on the restive south.
Militant group Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) threatened to spread the fight across Yemen after it was forced out of Abyan. The Interior Ministry said it had beefed up security in response.
The United States is increasingly concerned about the apparent strength of militancy in Yemen and has backed the Yemeni army with training, intelligence and increased aid. It has also used unmanned drones to target and kill suspected members of al Qaeda.
In May, a rogue soldier recruited by al Qaeda blew himself up in the middle of a military parade rehearsal in Sanaa, killing nearly 100 people.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Pravin Char)