Sunday, October 30, 2011

Four killed in latest security crackdown in Yemen, opposition says

Oct 30, 2011

Sana'a - Four people were killed in overnight attacks by troops in Yemen's two largest cities, opposition sources said on Sunday.

Three children were killed when troops shelled a fuel station in the Arhab region, north of the capital Sana'a. Around a dozen people were injured in the attack.

Security crackdowns on villages that have declared support for the anti-government uprising have taken place frequently. Protests are demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule.

In the city of Taiz in the south, a 16-year-old boy was killed late Saturday by sniper fire, the opposition Maareb press website reported.

According to government figures, at least 1,480 people were killed between the start of protests in February and the end of September.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Five Qaeda suspects held in south Yemen after killing

29 October 2011

Aden. Yemeni police arrested five suspects after the killing of a top security agent in a car bombing blamed on Al-Qaeda in the southern city of Aden, a source close to the security services said Saturday, AFP reports.

"The five suspects were arrested shortly after the assassination of Colonel Ali al-Hajji, head of an anti-terrorist unit in Aden, and are being questioned" on their role in the attack, the source said.

He said they were found in a nearby vehicle with a remote control device when the officer was blown up in his car on Friday in Al-Arish district near Aden airport, in an attack which also wounded two of his children.

A police source told AFP that four members of the security forces were wounded in another bomb attack late on Friday on a checkpoint near a police station in Aden.

Vice-President Hadi Leaves Yemen for the US

Sana'a, October 29, 2011

Vice-president Abdu Rabbu Mansoor Hadi left Yemen for the United States of America on Friday, making a stop in Dubai where he is rumored to stay for a day or so.

The State news agency SABA, announced that Hadi was travelling for medical reasons as he had scheduled a routine medical check-up in the US, taking place at one of Cleveland Hospitals.

The agency did not specify however whether Hadi was also planning to use the trip to hold talks with officials and diplomats regarding the recently approved UN resolution against President Saleh.

Interestingly enough, Hadi's trip to the US coincide with the arrival in Yemen of UN envoy Benomar and GCC secretary General al-Zayani, further delaying any hope of a quick transition of power since its main party will not be present.

Under the terms of the GCC brokered proposal, President Saleh would transfer his power to VP Hadi before announcing his official resignation.

Yemen’s power cuts

October 29 2011

Amal Ibrahim, a housewife living in the Yemeni capital Sana'a, has to contend with power cuts that have become a daily occurrence since the protests and consequent political crisis began in the Arabian Peninsula country earlier this year.

“I am unable to do my household chores such as cooking and washing as an electricity outage can last for 22 hours a day,” she told dpa.

“This reminds me of the hard life in the early 1980s when housewives used to do housework manually for there were no electric appliances,” Ibrahim adds.

Millions of Yemenis have taken to the streets since February demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule.

The crisis has recently turned violent with clashes, frequently resulting in deaths, between forces loyal to Saleh and his rivals becoming more frequent in Sana'a.

Before the eruption of the anti-Saleh uprising, residents in Sana'a say the electricity supply was erratic but not as bad as it is now.

“I miss those days when electricity used to be cut off for only four to five hours a day,” says Mohammed Abdullah, who runs a furniture workshop in Sana'a.

Due to the frequent power blackouts, Mohammed says he cannot meet orders from his customers on time.

“I have bought an electricity generator so that I can do my job,” he says. But he is facing another problem: a shortage of diesel fuel necessary for operating his generator.

“Diesel is not available in Sana'a. I have to go outside the capital to get it at prices, which are at least twice as high as before,” he says.

Work at the International Bank of Yemen in Sana'a has also been negatively affected by the lack of electricity, according to employee Basim al-Bahri.

“Worse, we sometimes run out of diesel fuel for generators used by the bank,” he adds.

The International Red Cross Committee (IRCC) said on Friday that essential services such as healthcare, electricity, water and education have been deeply disrupted, if not suspended, in Sana'a due to violence.

“Over the past few weeks, there has rarely been a moment of calm in Sana'a,” the IRCC said.

“For everyone, it is difficult if not impossible to move about within the city, which is filled with armed men, checkpoints and roadblocks,” said Eric Marclay, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen.

Despite the power outages, people in Sana'a notice that on certain occasions, electricity is always available.

This was the case on September 23 when the Yemeni president returned to the country from Saudi Arabia where he had stayed for almost four months recovering from injuries sustained in an attack on the presidential palace

Likewise, there are no power cuts when the president gives a televised speech.

“Only on such occasions, we can lead a normal life,” says al-Bahri.

Government officials have blamed power outages in Sana'a on attacks mounted by anti-Saleh tribesmen against electricity grids.

But the opposition accuses the government of deliberately disrupting electricity supplies to distort the image of anti-Saleh forces. - Sapa-DPA

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sec’y Clinton praises Yemeni Nobel winner, calls for revolution to bring democracy

By Associated Press,: October 28

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has heaped praise on the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and is calling for her revolution to succeed in bringing democracy to Yemen.

Clinton welcomed Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman in Washington Friday and lauded her “commitment to democracy and human rights,” and efforts to shape a better future for her impoverished Arab country.

Alternating in English and Arabic, Karman said Yemen’s protesters would surprise the world by making a new state, just as they surprised the world with their revolution.

She also spoke of the hundreds of Yemeni women who protested the government’s crackdown by setting fire to their traditional veils earlier this week. She said Yemeni women would press their rights and no longer hide behind veils or walls.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Car Bomb in Aden Kills Yemeni Counterterrorism Chief


October 28, 2011

TAIZ, Yemen — The head of counterterrorism in the southern port city of Aden was killed Friday after a car bomb exploded beneath his vehicle, according to a senior security official.

A government statement from the official Saba news agency on Friday said that Maj. Ali al-Haji, identified as a battalion commander in the Central Security Forces, was killed when driving through a market near the Arish area of Aden, Yemen’s second-largest city. However, the security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Major Haji was the head of counterterrorism, a specialized department within the Central Security Forces.

“Terrorists placed an explosive device in the car of the martyr al-Haji and when he returned home from work to his house the bomb exploded,” the Saba statement said, adding that two children described as bystanders were wounded in the attack.

Although Aden is not as accustomed to the type of urban warfare that broke out in the northern capital, Sana, in recent weeks, its security forces have repeatedly been the targets in the last several months of attacks similar to Saturday’s. The government usually accuses Al Qaeda of being behind these attacks.

In nearby Abyan Province, Islamic militants linked to Al Qaeda took over the provincial capital Zinjibar last spring, and Aden’s residents say they fear that militants are infiltrating their city as the security situation in southern Yemen deteriorates.

Central government control in Yemen has weakened ever since the government tried to quell the country’s 10-month-old protest movement, which started as part of the Arab Spring uprisings. Protesters have called for the ouster of Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who remains the leader of the impoverished country, despite international calls for him to leave office immediately.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

China hopes Yemen restores stability



BEIJING - China calls on relevant parties in Yemen to restore the country's stability at an early date through political dialogue, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said here on Wednesday.

Jiang said China welcomes the signing of the ceasefire.

"China hopes relevant parties will resolve differences through dialogue and consultation and other political means," Jiang said.

The Yemeni government signed a ceasefire with the dissident army and opposition rebels in the capital Sanaa on October 25, the Yemeni Defense Ministry said.

Nexen may make ''orderly exit'' from Yemen if political strife continues (Nexen)

Oct 27, 2011

CALGARY _ Ongoing political strife in Yemen may cause Nexen Inc. to halt its long-running operations in the Middle Eastern country, one of many to be swept by the so-called Arab Spring protests.

Whether the Calgary-based company (TSX:NXY) would be able to meet a year-end deadline to extend a contract with the Yemeni government has been a big question mark for much of the year.

"The political situation is making it difficult to make visible progress on an extension," Kevin Reinhart, Nexen´s chief financial officer, said Thursday.

"While we continue our efforts, we are preparing for an orderly exit if these efforts prove unsuccessful."

Reinhart made his comments on a conference call to discuss the company´s third-quarter financial results that saw net profits cut by nearly two thirds on lower production and falling sales.

The Calgary company reported early Thursday that it earned $200 million or 38 cents a share for the quarter ended Sept. 30.

That was down from $581 million or $1.11 a share a year earlier.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were on average expecting earnings of 31 cents per share.

Company-wide production after royalties ped to 164,000 oil equivalent barrels a day from 180,000. Output was hurt by reduced production from its Buzzard field in the North Sea, planned maintenance and weather-related downtime in the Gulf of Mexico.

Quarterly sales ped to just under $1.4 billion from $1.45 billion.

Nexen also said Thursday that it has received approval from the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change to go ahead with plans to develop the Golden Eagle oil deposit in the North Sea.

The C$3.3-billion investment by Nexen and its partners is expected to produce an estimated 140 million barrels of oil equivalent reserves over an 18-year period.

Nexen is the operator of Golden Eagle and holds a 36.54 per cent working interest in the field in the central North Sea.

The remaining interest is held by Maersk Oil North Sea UK Ltd., with 31.56 per cent, Suncor Energy UK Ltd. (TSX:SU), at 26.69 per cent and Edinburgh Oil and Gas, with (5.21 per cent.

During construction, the Golden Eagle development is expected to more than 2,000 jobs as well as 400 permanent jobs when production begins.

"This is a great day for the U.K. oil and gas industry. Regulatory approval marks a major milestone in the development of Golden Eagle, which is one of the largest oil discoveries in the U.K. North Sea since our Buzzard discovery," said Phil Oldham, managing director of Nexen Petroleum UK Ltd.

In its earnings report, Nexen said the company generated cash flow of $516 million in the third quarter, up from $496 million last year.

"While we have made good progress against several key initiatives so far this year, our production has been below our expectations due to the downtime at Buzzard," said Marvin Romanow, president and CEO of Nexen.

"With the work complete and the fourth platform commissioned, we are now able to produce from our full well set at Buzzard."

The Calgary-based company also operates the Long Lake oilsands project, which has been beset by operational glitches since it started up in late 2008.

At Long Lake, steam is pumped deep underground to soften the thick, tarry bitumen so it can flow to the surface. The project is unique in that uses the dregs of each barrel of crude as a fuel source.

But the project has lagged its design capacity of 72,000 barrels of bitumen per day. In the first quarter, Long Lake was producing only 28,500 barrels per day.

Nexen´s erstwhile Long Lake joint-venture partner, Opti Canada Ltd., filed for court protection from creditors earlier this year. In July, China National Offshore Oil Corp. acquired Opti for $2.1 billion.

Nexen has traced the hiccups back to the project´s inception around a decade ago and is currently working on fixing those mistakes.

It initially planned to develop land closest to the upgrader first in order to save money on pipelines and other infrastructure. Those areas, however, are not in the highest quality part of the reservoir.

Nexen is a major landholder in northeastern B.C.´s natural gas-rich Horn River Basin. It has been actively seeking a partner to help develop those assets, potentially exporting the gas to Asia via the West Coast.

In addition, Nexen has a seven per cent interest in the massive Syncrude Canada Ltd. oilsands mine, offshore operations in the North Sea, Gulf of Mexico and West Africa and oil production in Yemen.

Yemen's government denies recruiting Syrian militiamen

27 October 2011

Eight Syrians killed in a military plane crash in Yemen earlier this week were pilot trainers not militiamen, Yemeni military officials said Thursday dpa reported

The Syrian pilots had been on a training stint in Yemen since 1999 as part of a cooperation pact between the defence ministries in both countries, the state news agency quoted the officials as saying.

The eight Syrians and one Yemeni were killed Monday in the crash at Al-Anad base in the province of Lahij, located around 340 kilometres south-east of the capital Sana'a. Seven others on board the Russian-made plane survived the incident, according to Yemeni authorities.

Yemen's opposition has accused the government of recruiting militiamen from Syria to help quell months-long protests demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster.

Denying the accusation, a Yemeni military source said on Thursday: ?The Yemeni Armed Forces do not need military pilots from other countries as we have already enough qualified pilots.?

Millions of Yemenis have taken to the streets since February demanding an end to Saleh's 33-year rule. At least 1,480 people were killed between February and September, according to government figures.

An American Teenager in Yemen: Paying for the Sins of His Father?

By Tom Finn and Noah Browning / Sana'a Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011

A wave of CIA drone strikes targeting al-Qaeda figures in Yemen is stoking widespread anger here that U.S. policy is cruel and misguided, prioritizing counterterrorism over a genuine solution to the country's raging political crisis.

Politics have never been a concern to Sam al-Homiganyi and his fellow teenagers. This month, though, they were shocked by the sudden death of a friend and are struggling to understand why.

Fighting back tears, his gaze fixed downward, Homiganyi, a lean-looking 15 year-old from the outskirts of Sana'a, told TIME, "He was my best friend; we played football together everyday." Another of his friends spoke up, gesturing to the gloomy group of jean-clad boys around him: "He was the same as us. He liked swimming, playing computer games, watching movies... you know, normal stuff."

The dead friend was Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old born in Denver, Colorado, the third American killed in as many weeks by suspected CIA drone strikes in Yemen. His father, the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, also an American citizen, was killed earlier this month, along with alleged al-Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan, who was from New York. When Abdul Rahman's death was first reported in the western press, his age was given as 21 by local Yemeni officials. Afterwards, however, the Awlaki family put out a copy of Abdulrahman's birth certificate.

According to his relatives, Abdulrahman left the family home in the Sana'a area on Sept. 30 in search of his fugitive father who was hiding out with his tribe, the Awalak, in the remote, rugged southern province of Shabwa. Days after the teenager began his quest, however, his father was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Then, just two weeks later, the Yemeni government claimed another airstrike killed a senior al-Qaeda militant. Abdulrahman, his teenage cousin, and six others died in the attack as well. A U.S. official said the young man "was in the wrong place at the wrong time," and that the U.S. was trying to kill a legitimate terrorist — al-Qaeda leader Ibrahim al-Banna, who also died — in the strike that apparently killed the American teen-ager.

Abdulrahman's distraught grandfather is not buying the explanation. Nasser al-Awlaki, who received a university degree in the U.S., had for years sought an injunction in American courts to prevent the Obama administration from targetting and killing his son, Anwar. He told TIME, "I really feel disappointed that this crime is going to be forgotten. I think the American people ought to know what really happened and how the power of their government is being abused by this administration. Americans should start asking why a boy was targeted for killing." He continued, "In addition to my grandson's killing the missile killed by brother's grandson who was a 17-years old kid, who was not an American citizen but is a human being killed in cold blood. I cannot comprehend how my teenage grandson was killed by a Hellfire missile. How nothing was left of him except small pieces of flesh. Why? Is America safer now that a boy was killed?" As for his son, Abdulrahman's father, Nasser al-Awlaki says that the U.S. "killed my son Anwar without a trial for any crime he committed... They killed him just for his freedom of speech." He levels the charges directly at the U.S. President. "I urge the American people to bring the killers to justice. I urge them to expose the hypocrisy of the 2009 Nobel Prize laureate. To some he may be that. To me and my family he is nothing more than a child killer."

Meanwhile, the U.S. is caught between prosecuting the campaign, which depends in part on intelligence provided by security forces loyal to Yemen's embattled government, and encouraging political change. Inspired by the Arab Spring, Yemen has been convulsed by nine months of anti-government demonstrations which are now verging dangerously on civil war. U.S. diplomats have tried to manage a transition that will see President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down but keep the Yemeni state focused on counter-terrorism. "America's view of our country is wrong, and motivated only by its own cynical interests," says Hassan Luqman, a demonstrator camped out in the indefatigable sit-in colony known as "Change Square" in Yemen's capital. "Its support for the regime is a dishonor to all the youths who have fallen as martyrs struggling against it."

Western diplomats contend that while terrorism figures prominently in their concerns on Yemen, they are refusing to let the recent killing of several prominent al-Qaeda leaders distract them from the task of seeking a constructive political solution. "I'm sure the government hoped recent successes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would diminish pressure on them, but we maintain our line," a Sana'a-based Western diplomat said. "This hasn't changed the course on Yemen's long-term issues."

But the campaign of aerial bombardments in Yemen, accelerated by the Obama administration, has all too often missed its intended targets and killed innocents, aggravating the country's already dire humanitarian and security situation. In December 2009, a U.S. cruise missile crashed into a caravan of tents in the rural South, killing dozens, among them 14 women and 21 children. Despite an uproar by Yemeni rights groups and a detailed investigation by Amnesty International, U.S. officials refused to take responsibility for the bombing.

More disastrously, an American warplane wiped out the deputy governor of the oil-rich Maareb province along with his entire retinue last summer. They had gathered to accept the surrender of a wanted al-Qaeda militant who, finding the appointed site in flames, retraced his steps unscathed. A massive rebellion by the official's tribal kinsmen lingers to this day, and disturbances to the area's oil infrastructure have undercut the country's only lucrative export and severed the supply of electricity and fuel to millions of Yemenis every day.

Yemen's restive southern province of Abyan, has also been a focus of drone attacks, and has been at the center of a ferocious, months-long battle between army units — supplied with essential provisions by the U.S. — and al-Qaeda-linked militants. Refugees from the fighting, angrily recall seeing and hearing drones, and believe the government is deliberately exploiting the chaos to garner political capital from foreign powers. Her eyes aflame beneath a full black veil, Maryam, one of the refugees, noted, "I swear some of these bombs were American." Packed into a make-shift shelter in the Port city of Aden along with dozens of other families, she insisted, "We saw aircraft — small planes — we had never seen before, zooming above us 24 hours a day and terrifying our children."

Thousands of activists throughout southern Yemen, which had been an independent state until a bloody civil war imposed unification with the North two decades ago, see the al-Qaeda issue as a distraction from their legitimate grievances and calls for autonomy. "The South is rich in oil, and sits along one of the world's biggest shipping lanes," says Hassan al-Bishi, a general in the former South Yemen and anti-government activist. "If the United States continues to ignore our interests and focus only on one silly issue, we must seek other allies...China or Iran, for instance."

Cutting deeply into the country's political conflicts and across its broad expanse, the U.S. bombing offensive risks alienating the youth who will inevitably inherit Yemen's future. "I have one question for you," said one of Abdulrahman's young friends, his gloom turning to anger. "Who can't America kill?"

Yemen regime allows peaceful protest in Sanaa

(AFP) October 27, 2011

SANAA — Yemeni security forces heavily deployed in Sanaa allowed a massive anti-regime rally on Thursday to cross the capital without intervening, for the first time since January, an AFP correspondent reported.

The protesters left Change Square, outside Sanaa University which has become the epicentre of anti-regime demonstrations, and marched towards Al-Zubairi Avenue in central Sanaa.

Over the past months, security forces had opened fire on protesters whenever they attempted to march towards the city centre.

A similar move last month sparked a wave of deadly violence that left dozens dead across the capital.

But security forces, led by President Ali Abdullah Saleh's nephew Yehya, allowed protesters calling for the embattled leader to be prosecuted to peacefully demonstrate.

"Free people of the world, Saleh must be brought to justice," they chanted, calling the leader "a war criminal."

The protest took place as Sanaa was quiet Thursday, following two days of deadly clashes in the capital and Yemen's second largest city Taez.

Yemen has witnessed one of the longest and bloodiest uprisings of the Arab Spring, with hundreds of Yemenis dead and thousands more wounded since January.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Yemeni Women Burn Their Veils to Protest Government Crackdown

October 26, 2011| Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen – Hundreds of Yemeni women on Wednesday set fire to traditional female veils to protest the government's brutal crackdown against the country's popular uprising, as overnight clashes in the capital and another city killed 25 people, officials said.

In the capital Sanaa, the women spread a black cloth across a main street and threw their full-body veils, known as makrama, onto a pile, sprayed it with oil and set it ablaze. As the flames rose, they chanted: "Who protects Yemeni women from the crimes of the thugs?"

The women in Yemen have taken a key role in the uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's authoritarian rule that erupted in March, inspired by other Arab revolutions. Their role came into the limelight earlier in October, when Yemeni woman activist Tawakkul Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with two Liberian women, for their struggle for women's rights.

Wednesday's protest, however, was not related to women's rights or issues surrounding the Islamic veils -- rather, the act of women burning their clothing is a symbolic Bedouin tribal gesture signifying an appeal for help to tribesmen, in this case to stop the attacks on the protesters.

The women's protest came as clashes have intensified between Saleh's forces and renegade fighters who have sided with the protesters and the opposition in demands that the president step down.

Medical and local officials said up to 25 civilians, tribal fighters and government soldiers died overnight in Sanaa and the city of Taiz despite a ceasefire announcement by Saleh late Tuesday. Scores of others were wounded.

A medical official said seven tribal fighters were among those killed in Sanaa's Hassaba district. Another medical official said four residents and nine soldiers also died in the fighting there.

Government forces also shelled houses in Taiz -- a hotbed of anti-Saleh protests -- killing five people, including four members of one family, a local official said. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Saleh has clung to power in the face of more than eight months of massive near-daily protests against his rule.

As they burned their veils, Yemeni women activists handed out leaflets appealing for help and protection.

"This is a plea from the free women of Yemen; here we burn our makrama in front of the world to witness the bloody massacres carried by the tyrant Saleh," the leaflets read.

Across town, a group of women supporters of Saleh marched Wednesday up to the U.N. office to voice their opposition to international pressure on the president to step down. The women entered the U.N. building to hand in their protest note.

During a meeting with the U.S. ambassador on Tuesday, Saleh offered to sign a U.S. and Gulf Arab-backed power transfer deal that gives him immunity from prosecution if he steps down.

The meeting with U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein was Saleh's first since he returned last month from Saudi Arabia, where he was treated after an attack on his presidential compound in June left him badly wounded.

Saleh has repeatedly backed out of the deal at the last minute and the opposition has dismissed his latest offer.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Yemen calls truce, explosions heard

SANAA/ADEN | Tue Oct 25, 2011

SANAA/ADEN (Reuters) - Yemen's government signed a ceasefire with a dissident general on Tuesday to try to end weeks of escalating bloodshed, but explosions and gunfire could still be heard in the north of the capital.

A government official said the deal between President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government and breakaway General Ali Mohsen would take effect at 3 p.m. (1200 GMT) on Tuesday, but residents of the Hasaba and Sofan neighbourhoods in Sanaa said they heard explosions after that time.

After months of protests against Saleh's 33-year rule, a standoff between Saleh and an opposition of protesters, tribesmen and renegade soldiers tipped last month into bloody street fighting. Previous truce accords have failed to hold.

Earlier on Tuesday, security forces opened fire on a protest march in the capital Sanaa, killing two people, witnesses said. An opposition source said a third person was killed in shelling by Saleh's troops in the Sofan district.

In separate fighting between state forces and opposition fighters in the city of Taiz on Tuesday, eight civilians, including a child, were killed and more than 30 wounded, an opposition source said. The government said three members of its security forces were killed there.

Under the ceasefire deal mediated by a local committee, both sides agreed to dismantle armed checkpoints set up across the capital and release all those kidnapped during months of anti-government protests.

Saleh has defied months of demonstrations inspired by protests across the Arab world and refused to carry out a plan brokered by neighbouring Gulf states to step down. The United States and Saudi Arabia fear the upheaval is giving al Qaeda's local wing more room to operate in the poorest Arab country.

The truce agreement came four days after a United Nations Security Council resolution condemned violence in Yemen and urged Saleh to sign the Gulf initiative to hand over power. Violence has not abated.

Saleh welcomed the Security Council resolution on Monday. He has backed out of the Gulf initiative at the last minute three times and says he will transfer power only to "safe hands".

A Yemeni military plane crash-landed at an air base in Lahej province in the south, killing nine passengers, including eight Syrian engineers and one Yemeni engineer, according to doctors and army officials. A security official said a technical fault was probably to blame for the crash of the Russian-made Antonov plane, and the incident would be investigated.

Lahej borders Abyan province, where the Yemeni army is fighting to regain control of territory seized by suspected al Qaeda militants, who have benefited from political upheaval and weak central government control over parts of the country.

Late on Monday, an Uzbek doctor was abducted in the northern province and tribal stronghold of Maarib. A tribal source said the doctor had been kidnapped by tribesmen to put pressure on the government to release some jailed comrades.