AVOID MUSLIM YEMEN
Al-Qaeda gunmen storm Yemeni city; 27 killed
MOHAMMED MUKHASHAF AND MOHAMED GHOBARI | REUTERS
Published — Saturday 24 May 2014
ADEN, Yemen At least 27 people were killed in an overnight raid by gunmen on a city in southeastern Yemen, residents and a local official said on Saturday, as Al-Qaeda continues its fightback against a government offensive in the country.
Armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and explosives, attackers drove in from the surrounding desert on 15 pickup trucks into Seyoun after detonating a car bomb at the entrance to the city in Hadramout province.
Al Qaeda has carried out many hit-and-run attacks since the Yemeni army drove it from its southern strongholds in Abyan and Shabwa provinces last month. The West is concerned the group could use Yemen, which borders major oil producer Saudi Arabia, as a base for international attacks.
The militants targeted at least seven locations, including the main military posts, the local police headquarters, bank branches and the airport.
Residents said the city’s electricity supply was cut during the attack and they heard explosions and gunfire throughout the night. The militants briefly captured some buildings before withdrawing early on Saturday.
“They wanted to capture the city and control it,” a local official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters. The official said 20 attackers died and said they took away 18 bodies. Five members of the security forces and two soldiers died in the fighting, he said.
Local officials said they suspected the attack was led by Jalal Balaidi, a senior Al-Qaeda figure in the region. Hadramout province stretches from the port of Mukalla in the south to the Saudi border, through arid valleys and empty desert, the type of landscape Al-Qaeda uses to its advantage across the Middle East.
A regional website, Al-Mukalla Al-Yawm, said the attackers were wearing Yemeni army uniforms. It said that dozens of casualties were taken to local hospitals.
A US ally, with a population of 25 million, Yemen is trying to end three years of political unrest, which began when mass protests erupted in 2011 against Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of 33 years, who stepped down.
Apart from the fight against Al-Qaeda, the government faces by southern separatists for independence and battles with rebels from the Shiite Muslim Houthi movement, which is trying to extend its control over the north.
65% of females in Yemen marry underage
Sana'a University study lifts lid on exactly how serious the child marriage problem has become
By: Jumana Al Tamimi, Associate Editor
Published: 12:44 January 26, 2014
Dubai: Two little girls aged eight and nine celebrated last year a Sana’a court ruling that allowed them to annul their marriages.
A third young girl in the second grade was about to marry a man in his thirties when the civil society groups intervened and stopped the wedding a few months ago in the southern part of the country. Unconfirmed reports said an 8-year-old Yemen girl died after being married to a man in his forties.
Child marriages are rampant in Yemen. A study revealed that the bridal age in more than half of the finalised marriages in Yemen was under the age of 15. According to the study conducted by Sana’a University, only 7 per cent of “husbands” were under the age of 18.
It also added that nearly 65 per cent of females are married “underage,” while that number rises to 70 per cent in rural areas.
Despite efforts to put an end to “this catastrophe”, experts and activists differ on whether setting, by law, a minimum age for marriage will solve the problem. Some say the issue has been receiving considerable attention and growing approval to setting a minimum age for marriage that will be agreed on by the society.
“The issue is related to the country’s culture,” said Yousuf Abu Ras, head of the Yemeni Organisation for economic and social development, one of the NGOs in the country.
For the efforts to change the child marriage to succeed there is a need to change peoples’ perceptions and not just make a legal or legislation amendment, he told Gulf News.
“Any legal amendment will come from above, and it doesn’t reach the roots of the society. The issue (tackle child marriage) needs more awareness and enlightenment efforts, (to succeed)” Abu Ras said.
Even within the same Islamic groups, people differ in their opinion on a minimum age group. There are “religious extremist and traditional” powers that refuse any legal move to set a minimum age for girl, arguing that there is no minimum age for marriage in Islamic law.
“Accordingly, these groups that have popular basis don’t want to lose these bases by supporting the move.”
But other activists believe the light shed on the issue locally and internationally after reporting some cases as boosted the efforts to put an end to the child marriage. It also united more people in their rejection to child brides.
“Until now there is no social opposition, because of the massive damage endured in the past few years on different levels, including social and economic,” said Youssef Abdou, a consultant with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Yemen.
He described numbers of child marriages as “scary” figures, and said they led to a decline in the health indicators of mothers and children in the country, one of the most improvised countries in the world.
With an infant death rate of 51 deaths in early 1,000 live births and a maternal death risk of 200 deaths in every 100,000 live births, infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are high in Yemen.
Abdou noted that child marriages is also related to high illiteracy rates in Yemen and the high number of people living under the poverty line. Many poor families receive some “generous” dowry, while they get rid of an extra member in the family to feed.
Setting a minimum age of marriage of 18 years for girls in Yemen was among the main recommendations of national dialogue held in Yemen as part of the Gulf initiative to end the tension in the country after people took to the streets to demand change.
Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, according to the initiative, handed over the power to his deputy, Abed Rabou Mansour Hadi, and a national dialogue was held.
And even if it is approved, the law of minimum age needs nearly two years to come into effect, experts and activists said.
Until then, Yemen and Saudi Arabic remain to be the only two Arab countries that don’t have a minimum age for marriage.
U.S. Embassy in Yemen Stormed as Film Protests Spread in Mideast
By Mohammed Hatem and Donna Abu-Nasr on September 13, 2012
Protesters attempted to storm the U.S. embassy in Yemen’s capital and one was reportedly shot dead, while there were also demonstrations in Egypt and Iran against a film seen as insulting to Islam.
The spread of violence follows the killing of the American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three colleagues during an attack on consular buildings there two days ago. U.S. lawmakers said yesterday that groups tied to al-Qaeda may have been involved.
Demonstrators in Sana’a breached the compound’s security perimeter and set two cars ablaze, as security personnel fired into the air to disperse the crowd, said Yousef Al-Ahjan, who joined the rally. One protester was killed and five injured, Al Arabiya television said. Thick columns of smoke rose from the compound’s vicinity. In Cairo, police were injured and dozens of protesters arrested in a third day of clashes near the U.S. embassy, and in Tehran demonstrators gathered outside the Swiss mission, which represents U.S. interests there.
The anti-American violence threatens U.S. efforts to establish ties with the new governments that are emerging in the Middle East after last year’s wave of revolts. Yemen and Egypt are longtime U.S. allies, while Libya’s political leaders are drawn from the rebellion against Muammar Qaddafi that was backed by American air power.
Yemen’s embassy in Washington said in an e-mailed statement that order has been restored to the embassy complex. It said Yemen will step up security around all foreign missions. President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi said the attacks may hurt ties with the U.S., and promised to pursue the perpetrators.
Mohammed Ali, a protester who was leaving the compound area, said the demonstrators want the U.S. ambassador to Yemen expelled. He said several were arrested. Haitham al-Sukkari, wearing a paper shoe on his right foot with the U.S. flag printed on it, said he and other protesters plan to return later today for another attempt to storm the embassy.
In Cairo, protesters set fire to two police vehicles as authorities tried to keep them away from the U.S. embassy. At least 16 people were injured and 24 arrested, government officials said. Protesters outside the Swiss embassy in Tehran chanted “death to Israel” and “death to America.”
The eruptions across the Middle East, recalling the reaction to the publication of cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish magazine in 2005, were prompted this time by the film ‘The Innocence of Islam,’ extracts from which were posted on YouTube. It portrays Mohammad as a womanizer. For Muslims, any depiction of the prophet is sacrilegious.
The governments of Islamic countries including Egypt and Iran have called on the U.S. to crack down on works that offend religious feelings. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as the country’s strongest political party since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak last year, and Islamic parties have gained ground elsewhere in the region.
U.S. politicians including Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Senate intelligence panel, said yesterday that the attack in Libya may have been the work of al-Qaeda.
Pentagon dispatched an anti-terrorism team of 50 U.S. Marines from
Europe to Tripoli, Libya’s capital, to safeguard the U.S. embassy there
and also assist in evacuating American personnel from Libya, U.S.
officials told reporters yesterday.
Bomber kills 100 soldiers in Yemen
Reuters | May 22, 2012
SANAA: A suicide bomber with explosives strapped under his uniform killed nearly 100 people at a military parade rehearsal in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Monday, an attack which will alarm Washington as its involvement in the front-line state deepens.
Militant group Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), which is affiliated to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), claimed responsibility for the military parade suicide attack, saying it was in response to the "crimes" of the security forces, who are fighting to dislodge militants from their strongholds in Abyan. Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, facing a growing campaign by an al-Qaida affiliate in the country, said security forces would become "tougher and more determined in pursuing terrorist elements".
Yemen's defence minister and chief of staff were both present at the rehearsal for Tuesday's National Day parade but neither was hurt. A police source said he could not rule out the bombing was an attempt to assasinate them.
The attack, along with an ambush on Sunday on an American military training team, indicated that terror campaign could be entering a dangerous new stage.
The US sees Yemen as a vital front in its global war on Islamic militants and is increasing its military support for the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.The US military has itself targeted militants in Yemen using drones, which have frequently killed civilians and are deeply resented by Yemenis , even those who abhor Qaida. A US military instructor was seriously wounded in Sunday's ambush, claimed by group Ansar al-Sharia .
The explosion in Sanaa's Sabaeen Square left scenes of carnage, with bloodied victims and body parts strewn across the 10-lane road where the rehearsal was held on Monday morning, not far from the presidential palace.
The defence ministry said nearly 100 soldiers were killed and 222 wounded. "We had just finished the parade. We were saluting our commander when a explosion went off," said a soldier. "It was a gruesome . Many soldiers were killed and others had their arms and legs blown off."
Yemen Swears in New President to the Sound of Applause, and Violence
By LAURA KASINOF
February 25, 2012
The New York Times
SANA, Yemen — Yemen’s first new president in more than three decades was sworn in on Saturday, taking over a country with a broken economy, crumbling infrastructure, violent separatist movements, an active Qaeda franchise and Islamist militants in control of large swaths of territory.
After a year of antigovernment protests and rising insecurity in a country the United States sees as a critical ally in the fight against Al Qaeda, Yemenis were hopeful that the new government led by Abed Rabu Mansour Hadi, the former vice president, represented a fresh start.
But as if to underscore the problems Mr. Hadi faces, hours after he took the oath of office and promised to continue the war on Al Qaeda, militants responded with attacks on government targets in the southeastern port of Mukalla, killing at least 21 soldiers.
The swearing-in ceremony, in a room in Parliament packed with legislators, diplomats and journalists, was strikingly cheerful. Members of the former ruling party and the opposition, who fought bitterly over the past year, greeted one another with smiles, handshakes and kisses on the cheek.
When Mr. Hadi entered, the room burst into applause. He took the oath standing between two men who led enemy camps last year, Yahya al-Rayie, the Parliament speaker and a Saleh loyalist, on his left, and Himyar al-Ahmar, whose tribesmen fought government forces on the streets of northern Sana, on his right.
“I know that there are complex and interlocking crises: economic, social and security,” Mr. Hadi afterward.
He called the fight against Al Qaeda “a national and religious duty.” And in an indirect reference to his predecessor, the autocratic president Ali Abdullah Saleh, he urged officials from both sides to work together to “build a strong state through establishing institutions that are not based on a single personality,”
Mr. Hadi, 65, had been chosen as a consensus candidate by the former ruling party and the opposition, and was confirmed in a one-candidate election on Tuesday. The election was part of a United States-backed deal to end the political crisis and remove Mr. Saleh from office.
Despite the lack of choice, the turnout was heavy, said by the government to be 65 percent, suggesting that after more than a year of protests and unrest in which hundreds were killed, Yemenis were eager to embrace change.
“We consider this a historic day for Yemen,” said Ali al-Mamari, a legislator who quit Mr. Saleh’s party last spring after government supporters used violence against peaceful protesters. “All year there was a revolution, but now a new revolution started that is without weapons, without conflict, to transform our country into a civil state. I am incredibly happy. Months ago, I did not expect to be happy like this.”
The challenges remaining, however, are immense.
“This transfer of presidential power is historic for Yemen,” said April Alley, a regional analyst for the International Crisis Group. “But it’s the days ahead that are going to really matter.
“There are the economic and security challenges that are immediate,” she said. “And also there are political challenges when it comes to pulling the country back together, dealing with the separatist movement in the south and a different set of grievances with the Houthis,” rebels who control Saada Province in the north.
The United States, which sees Yemen largely through the lens of counterterrorism, is expected to be involved in restructuring the military into what it hopes will be a more effective force against Al Qaeda. President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, raised those concerns in private meetings with Mr. Hadi in Sana last week.
Even the accomplishment being celebrated on Saturday, the end of Mr. Saleh’s 33-year rule, was tempered by the reality that he still wields considerable influence. His relatives control most of the military and government security agencies, and it remains to be seen how independent Mr. Hadi, a longtime Saleh loyalist, will be.
Mr. Saleh kept a low profile on Saturday and, despite having promised to hand over power formally to Mr. Hadi, did not attend the ceremony. He had been in the United States for medical treatment for injuries sustained in an attack on his presidential palace last June, and returned to Yemen early Saturday.
He “returned to his private residence in Sana, not the presidential palace,” said Mohammed Albasha, a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, without elaborating.
Mr. Hadi is charged with leading a transition to democracy, and his new unity government, composed of members of Mr. Saleh’s party and the opposition, is to begin a national dialogue on a new constitution. If that effort is to succeed, the government will need to find a way to bring in the separatists in the south and the Houthis in the north.
The south has been discriminated against and marginalized by the Saleh government since north and south Yemen unified in 1990, and many southerners bitterly hate the Sana government. Although Mr. Hadi is from the southern province of Abyan, he fled to Sana in the 1980s and is seen as a traitor by many in the south.
Last spring, a Qaeda-linked militant group called Ansar al-Sharia seized large swaths of territory in the south as government forces fled, either defecting or joining the fight against armed opposition fighters in the capital, Sana.
It was not clear if that group was behind the attacks in Mukalla on Saturday. In one case, a suicide car bomb exploded in front of the presidential palace on the outskirts of town. At least 21 soldiers and a civilian woman were killed, the Defense Ministry said. There were also clashes in front of a government security building, residents said.
West of Mukalla, in Aden, there was a gun battle between government forces and armed civilians believed to belong to the southern separatist movement, residents said.
In the capital, however, officials tried to focus on the progress the day symbolized more than the problems that lie ahead.
“This is the beginning of the end of the crisis in Yemen,” said Sultan al-Barakani, a legislator from Mr. Saleh’s party.
The American ambassador, Gerald Feierstein, was among those in attendance. “This is a victory for all of Yemen,” he said. “I think anyone sitting here today knows that real change happened.”
Ordinary Yemenis also held out hope that whatever comes next must be better than what they have endured for the past year.
Haitham Jarallah, 20, who has known no leader other than Mr. Saleh, was in his father’s corner store, near the old city, with a crowd of neighbors, listening to the radio broadcast of Mr. Hadi being sworn into office.
“Always I was with Ali Abdullah Saleh, but now we will stand with Mr. Hadi,” Mr. Jarallah said. “A new chapter opened in Yemen’s history.”
Weeks of clashes in northern Yemen kill 200, including 15 foreigners
By Associated Press
Published: December 21, 2011
SANAA, Yemen — Nearly 200 people, among them 15 foreigners, have been killed in clashes over the past few weeks between an ultraconservative Islamist group and former Shiite rebels in northern Yemen, a military official and the leader of the Islamist faction said Wednesday. In Moscow, Russia’s Foreign Minister said four Russian citizens were among those killed.
The tension between the Salafi Islamists, who are Sunni, and the former Hawthi rebels, who are Shiite, escalated just as Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed in late November a U.S.-backed proposal crafted by powerful Gulf Arab neighbors, under which he transfers power to his vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He agreed to step down after a 10-month uprising against his 33-year authoritarian rule.
The Hawthis fought a bloody and costly six-year war with Saleh’s government in northern Saada province, along the Saudi border, until a cease-fire was reached early last year.
Salafi spokesman Surour al-Wadee said 71 Salafi fighters, among them an American and French, Russian, Algerian, Malaysian, Somalian, and Libyan citizens, have been killed in the clashes. A Yemeni military officials said more than 120 Hawthis have been killed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Many of the foreigners were studying in the Salafi Dar al-Hadith school in Saada, which has attracted students from around the world. It was set up more than 20 years ago as a learning center to counter Shiite Islam in the area. Its funds often flow from Yemen’s neighbor to the north, Saudi Arabia.
Salafism is a particularly hardline branch of Islam. Some Salafis follow a militant ideology similar to al-Qaida’s, but the terror network operates separately. Salafi preachers in Saada have used the pulpit to argue that the killing of Hawthi Shiites is an Islamic duty.
During Yemen’s uprising, security has unraveled and al-Qaida and other Islamist militants have tried to exploit the vacuum to gain a firmer foothold in the impoverished country. The al-Qaida branch in Yemen is one of the most active in the world.
In the months leading up to Saleh’s signing of the agreement to give up power, security forces appeared to have turned a blind eye to Salafis arming themselves and amassing in greater numbers in Saada province. The Saudi government pressures Saleh to step down as of the group of Gulf states that formulated the plan for him to go.
On Tuesday, the Hawthis and Salafis agreed to a cease-fire brokered by opposition tribesmen, politicians and religious figures. It collapsed less than 24 hours later in part of Saada. According to al-Wadee, eight Hawthis and two Salafi fighters were killed on Wednesday.
Al-Qaida fighters have not attempted a cease-fire with Hawthi Shiites. Instead, leading al-Qaida figures in Yemen have reportedly called on fighters in recent weeks to fight the Shiites.
Russia tracks its citizens who travel abroad for training in Muslim seminaries. The Russian Embassy in Yemen counted 36 Russian citizens living in Saada — students at Dar al-Hadith school for Islamic studies and their families.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Russian and Yemeni authorities are working to evacuate the remaining Russian citizens from the area.
The Russian Embassy said the Russian students are at Dar al-Hadith illegally, having bypassed regulations for leaving Russia.
Russia has millions of Muslim citizens, notably in the Caucasus republics that have been plagued by insurgent violence.
Tired of widespread poverty and a government perceived as corrupt and abusive, many Muslims from the Caucasus have traveled to the Middle East and South Asia to study with radical Islamic leaders who challenge the Kremlin-backed Muslim clerics at home.
In 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called on Russia’s Muslim leaders to join forces in an effort to keep young Muslims in Russia and quell recruitment by extremist groups abroad. In May, Alexander Khloponin, Medvedev’s envoy to the Caucaus region, said authorities were planning to closely monitor young people who go abroad to study Islam.
Yemen tribe warns against harming cleric on US wants dead
(AFP) – April 10, 2010
SANAA — A powerful tribe in Yemen threatened violence on Saturday against anyone trying to harm a radical US-born Muslim cleric whom Washington has reportedly placed on its hit list.
The heavily armed Al-Awaliq tribe, active in the Abyan and Shabwa regions that are key Al-Qaeda strongholds in Yemen, warned against any attempt against Anwar al-Awlaqi, a Yemen-based US citizen with suspected Al-Qaeda ties.
In an official statement published after a meeting of tribal leaders, the tribe said it would "not remain with arms crossed if a hair of Anwar al-Awlaqi is touched, or if anyone plots or spies against him."
"Whoever risks denouncing our son (Awlaqi) will be the target of Al-Awaliq weapons," the statement said, and warned "anyone against cooperating with the Americans" in the capture or killing of the cleric.
A US official said on Wednesday that President Barack Obama's administration had authorised the targeted killing of the cleric, even though he is an American citizen.
"The US government would be remiss if it didn't go after terrorist threats like Awlaqi," the counter-terrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
It was not immediately clear if the tribe was actually harbouring Awlaqi in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden where tribal ties and laws largely hold sway.
In 2002, a US missile attack in Yemen killed six suspected Al-Qaeda operatives, including Sunyan al-Harthi whom Washington had linked to an attack two years earlier on American warship the USS Cole in Yemeni waters.
The rare step of targeting Awlaqi was reportedly approved after US intelligence agencies concluded he was now directly involved in plots against the United States, not merely publicly encouraging such attacks.
Awlaqi rose to prominence last year after it emerged he had had prolonged communications with Major Nidal Hasan, a US Army psychiatrist accused of opening fire on colleagues at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people.
He is also accused of having had ties to the September 11 hijackers, and to Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound flight with explosives last December 25.
16 Are Killed in Bombings at Embassy in Yemen
By ROBERT F. WORTH
New York Times
Published: September 17, 2008
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Militants disguised as soldiers detonated two car bombs outside the United States Embassy compound in Sana, Yemen, on Wednesday morning, killing 16 people, including 6 of the attackers, Yemeni officials said.
No American officials or embassy employees were killed or wounded, embassy officials said. Six of the dead were Yemeni guards at the compound entrance, and the other four killed were civilians waiting to be allowed in.
It was the deadliest and most ambitious attack in years in Yemen, a poor south Arabian country of 23 million people where militants aligned with Al Qaeda have carried out a number of recent bombings.
The attack began at 9:15 a.m. when gunmen dressed in camouflage uniforms drove up and began firing rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at a checkpoint outside the heavily fortified United States Embassy compound, said one Yemeni official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment.
As the embassy guards began firing back, the suicide bombers drove through the checkpoint and detonated their cars on the concrete barriers nearer to the compound’s front gate, the official said.
Satellite television images showed thick black smoke rising from the blast site as Yemeni security forces and medical teams streamed in and closed off the streets around the sprawling embassy compound, which is in one of the capital’s most secure areas.
The attack was especially shocking to Yemenis because it came during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, when the faithful fast during the day and are meant to abstain from sin.
Just last month, the embassy had reversed an order made in April for all nonessential personnel to leave the country, said Ryan Gliha, an embassy spokesman, speaking by telephone from Sana. The order was rescinded because the security situation appeared to have improved after a series of bombings in the spring, Mr. Gliha said.
Also, Yemeni counterterrorism forces had scored some notable successes in hunting down militants, Mr. Gliha added, including an attack on a Qaeda safe house on Aug. 11 in which five militants were killed.
After the attack on Wednesday, a little-known Yemeni group that calls itself Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. Yemeni officials seemed skeptical, however, saying they suspected Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch, which has become more active over the past year.
After the raid last month, Islamic Jihad released a statement on the Internet promising to carry out attacks in retaliation. The proof, the statement said, using a common Islamist phrase, “will be in what you see and not in what you hear.”
Some American analysts voiced the suspicion on Wednesday that members of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch may have used the name Islamic Jihad to exaggerate the group’s size and influence in the country.
“The group has used various names over time, which leads many to believe it is larger than it actually is,” said an American intelligence official in Washington who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject. The official estimated that the ranks of Al Qaeda in Yemen, as American intelligence agencies call the group, number in the “low hundreds.” The group is headed by Nasir al-Wahishi.
The official also said that an initial review of security videotapes taken outside the embassy indicated that as many as three of the attackers were wearing suicide vests, another hallmark of Al Qaeda. Two attackers detonated or partially detonated their vests; a third attacker was shot by Yemeni security forces before he could blow himself up.
In Washington, President Bush warned that the United States was “at war with extremists who will murder innocent people to achieve their ideological objectives.” Emerging from a meeting with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former commander of American forces in Iraq, he said that one of those objectives was “to try to cause the United States to lose our nerve and to withdraw from regions of the world.”
On the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama issued a statement condemning the bombing and calling for increased counterterrorism assistance to the allies of the United States. “We must do more to strengthen the military, police, and intelligence capability in nations like Yemen that are on the front lines in the fight against terrorism,” Mr. Obama said.
Yemen has long been viewed as a haven for jihadists, with its conservative tribal culture and its remote mountains and deserts, where the central government has limited authority. The country became a special concern for the United States in 2000 after Qaeda operatives detonated a suicide bomb alongside the destroyer Cole in the port of Aden, on Yemen’s southern coast, killing 17 American sailors.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Yemen joined in a counterterrorism partnership with the United States, and its elite American-trained forces have had some important successes in fighting jihadists.
But American officials have also voiced frustration with Yemen’s unusual detention policies, under which jihadists convicted on terrorism charges are sometimes granted parole in exchange for assistance in capturing fugitives. Last year, American officials were furious when they learned that Jamal al-Badawi, who is wanted in the United States for his role in the Cole bombing, had been released. He was quickly returned to prison.
Over the past year or so, jihadists claiming allegiance to Al Qaeda appear to have reorganized, releasing more propaganda materials on the Internet and carrying out more attacks. In July 2007, suicide bombers killed seven Spanish tourists in eastern Yemen, and there were two unsuccessful attacks on oil installations.
Earlier this year there were several attacks on foreign embassies and tourists. In March, mortar rounds fired at the American Embassy compound in Sana struck a nearby school for girls instead, killing a security guard, wounding more than a dozen girls and prompting the United States and other countries to send nonessential embassy staff home.
The embassy compound has been the scene of occasional political violence in previous years, including an attack by a gunman in 2006 and a large demonstration against the American-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, in which three people were fatally shot and dozens were injured.
Yemen is also facing serious security threats on other fronts, including an intermittent rebellion in the north that has left thousands of people dead since it began in 2004 and periodic riots and instability in the south.
Khaled al-Hammadi contributed reporting from Sana, Yemen, and Eric Schmitt and Steven Lee Myers from Washington.
International Crisis Group
January 8, 2003
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
On 3 November 2002, an unmanned U.S. "Predator" aircraft hovering in the skies of Yemen fired a Hellfire missile at a car carrying a suspected al-Qaeda leader, four Yemenis said to be members of the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, and a Yemeni-American who, according to U.S. authorities, had recruited volunteers to attend al-Qaeda training camps. All six occupants were killed. Almost two months later, three American missionaries were shot and killed in the Yemeni city of Jibla. These incidents, only the latest in a series involving Yemen, reinforced its image as a weak and lawless state with porous borders, a sanctuary for al-Qaeda operatives, a country with tenuous government control over vast parts of its territory and dominated by a culture of kidnappings and endemic violence. The October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, the arrest earlier in 2002 of several Yemenis in the United States and Pakistan suspected of membership in the al-Qaeda network, the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibah, a Yemeni citizen accused of being a key plotter of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the U.S., and the attack on the French oil tanker Limburg in October 2002 have all contributed to this perception. Indeed, during the past year, the U.S. has sent special forces to Yemen and neighbouring countries, with the purpose of pursuing presumed members of the al-Qaeda network and associated organisations in Yemen.
The Yemeni reality is, of course, vastly more complex than the headlines it generates and presents a conundrum for international policymakers. Signs of potential instability are offset by significant positive political developments. Yemen has made substantial progress since its unification in 1990 and civil war in 1994. A nascent democracy with the most open political system in the Arabian Peninsula, its government has shown a general commitment to developing the instruments of a modern state and has cooperated with international efforts to uproot the al-Qaeda network.
Concerns that areas of rural Yemen increasingly will become a magnet for members of al-Qaeda fleeing Afghanistan are legitimate but appear exaggerated and, more importantly, can lead to wrong-headed policy conclusions. In contrast to Afghanistan under the Taliban, Yemen's central government has not offered direct support to that international terrorist organisation. Al-Qaeda has used Yemen as a staging and recruitment area on account of the presence of thousands of veterans who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, but has not been able to establish large bases. A variety of politically motivated attacks on foreign and Yemeni targets have taken place in recent years but these have been conducted by diverse actors driven by diverse political goals. Detailed, reliable information about such attacks is scarce, and in most cases it is impossible to discern whether they are personally, financially or politically motivated. Organisational and financial relations between al-Qaeda and two home-grown Islamist militant groups, the Islamic Jihad Movement (IJM) and the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, remain murky, although it is known that there have been personal links between Osama bin Laden and members of the IJM in the past.
An exclusive focus on terrorism – and on combating it almost exclusively through military means – would present two sets of risks. First, it could obscure, and therefore leave unaddressed, the domestic roots of the many problems that confront Yemen. Endemic urban and rural violence there reflect a host of interlinked factors. These include widespread poverty, rapid population growth, an uneven distribution of scarce natural and other resources, a heavily armed civilian population that is dispersed throughout remote and often inaccessible regions, a state often unable to extend its authority to rural areas, porous borders and smuggling, weak political institutions, popular disenchantment with the slow pace of democratisation and lingering social, economic and religious cleavages.
The central government has yet to exert full control over tribes in remote areas and faces difficulties in exerting control over religious education in both public and private schools. Parts of the population continue to resist stronger government authority, and many discontented young men and women have been attracted to a variety of home-grown Islamist movements. That Yemen continues to be marred by violent clashes and hostage taking – including by the authorities – is a function of all these complex factors, not one alone.
A second risk, is that the Yemeni government may, like other states, use the cover of anti-terrorism efforts to pursue its own, unrelated political objectives and that it might bend the rule of law in ways that risk generating broader anti-government feeling, thus creating new recruitment opportunities for militant Islamist groups. Branding government disputes with tribes as counter-terrorist operations is one example, as is direct government intervention in tribal disputes motivated by the affiliation of senior officials with one of the conflicting tribes.
The role of the international community and the policy choices it makes are critical. While the government of President Ali Abdallah Salih appears committed to cooperate with U.S. efforts to root out al-Qaeda, it also fears that excessive alignment with Washington, particularly should it attack Iraq, could generate a domestic backlash. Large numbers of Yemenis remain staunchly opposed to any deployment of U.S. forces in their country and an American presence, therefore, needs to be limited, fully coordinated with the Yemeni authorities, and geared toward enabling Yemen to handle security problems arising within its territory. The international community also would be well advised to expand its assistance beyond security in order to help Yemen tackle some of its underlying economic and political problems.
Yemen's relationship with neighbouring Saudi Arabia is equally complex. While a recent agreement resolving longstanding border disputes has the potential to improve relations, Riyadh continues to provide direct subsidies to a number of tribal leaders – making the task of building an effective central government all the more challenging.
Yemen is not a failed or failing state but it is a fragile one. The varied and, at times, contradictory pressures it faces – from the U.S. to take stronger action against suspected al-Qaeda followers; and from the very militant groups the U.S. seeks to root out and that seem to thrive on the expanding U.S. presence in the Middle East – could put it at risk. Add to this the tensions created by a possible war on Iraq and the continued confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians, and the carefully constructed edifice of the Yemeni state – a work still in progress – may yet come apart. The disintegration of the Yemeni state would present its citizens, their region and the international community alike with a set of challenges far graver and more complex than any confronted during the recent past.
Yemen pardons convicted pro-rebel Muslim clerics
Sat 20 May 2006
SANAA, May 20 (Reuters) - Yemeni
President Ali Abdullah Saleh has pardoned a Muslim preacher sentenced to death
and another who was jailed for backing a rebel movement and spying for Iran, a
government official said on Saturday.
Last year, a court ruled that Yehia Hussein al-Daylami, sentenced to death, and Mohamed Meftah wanted to overthrow the Arab country's government and supported radical Shi'ite rebels.
Both were being freed under the pardon, the official said. Meftah's original jail sentence was eight years.
In March, Yemen freed more than 600 supporters of anti-U.S. Shi'ite cleric Hussein al-Houthi in an amnesty that aimed to put an end to two years of clashes, which have killed several hundred soldiers and rebels.
After Houthi was killed in 2004, the government blamed his father, Sheikh Badr el-Deen al-Houthi, for a new round of clashes which erupted in 2005. Later, the elder Houthi agreed to stop fighting.
Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The rebels are not linked to al Qaeda. Sunni Muslims make up a majority of Yemen's 19 million population, while Shi'ites compose about 15 percent.
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