Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One Dead After Yemen Security Forces Fire on Protesters in Capital

SANA'A- Mar 9, 2011- Government security forces beat demonstrators and then opened fire on them late Tuesday night, fatally wounding one protester and leaving nine others with bullet wounds and scores suffering from tear gas, according to medical personnel outside Sana University. Protests in Sana, the capital, have been relatively peaceful since President Ali Abdullah Saleh said that Yemeni security forces would protect the demonstrators. The episode was the first time that uniformed officers used live ammunition since the protests began here nearly a month ago. Two protesters were killed in Sana several weeks ago by men in civilian clothes.
Tens of thousands of antigovernment demonstrators have assembled outside the university, and the number of protesters appears to increase each day. The gathering now stretches for more than a mile.
The demonstration turned violent on Tuesday night, when, according to witnesses, security forces wielding batons started to beat people who were carrying additional tents that they wanted to set up in the area of the sit-in. The officers then began to use tear gas and opened fire, the witnesses said.
“It was them, it was them who shot us,” Saleh al-Hashdi, 32, said of the security forces at the demonstration area. He said that he had been beaten by police officers and his head was bandaged with a blood-stained gauze.
The Yemeni government offered a different version of events. It said in a statement that the police had discovered some protesters trying to enter the demonstration area with automatic rifles hidden inside blankets and camping equipment.
“The suspects resisted arrest and soon thereafter a gunfight broke out, injuring dozens of suspected militants, policemen and innocent bystanders,” the statement said, adding that the Interior Ministry will investigate the episode.
The injured were rushed into a mosque that had been turned into a medical clinic, where volunteer doctors attended to them. In addition to those who were shot, at least 50 people appeared to have sustained other kinds of injuries, many of them from tear gas.
In addition to growing in size, the demonstrations here have become more diversified. Students and unemployed young people initially dominated the rallies, but now people from all segments of Yemeni society have joined in.
Tribesmen from Yemen’s north have come to the capital to add their voices to those calling for Mr. Saleh to leave office. These tribesmen contend that Mr. Saleh’s government has kept them poor and favored other tribes. Hisham al-Bakary from Khowlan, a tribal region east of Sana known for kidnapping and violence, said that he and his fellow tribesmen “came here peacefully, without our weapons.”
In other developments on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi appealed to rich Persian Gulf countries for $6 billion in additional aid to confront an economic crisis.
“The threats and conspiracies aimed at Yemen’s unity, security and stability pose a threat to the security of the region and the world,” Mr. Qirbi told a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, according to the official Saba news agency. The council is made up of prosperous Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s biggest financial backer. Yemen is not a member.
Mr. Qirbi said that Mr. Saleh was committed to dialogue with the political opposition and to introducing political reform, Saba reported.
Also, in a sign of Yemen’s expanding political crisis, three more politicians resigned from the governing party: two members of Parliament and Yemen’s most famous arms dealer, Faris Manna.
Mr. Saleh recently rejected a plan presented to him by Yemen’s political opposition in which he would leave office before the next presidential election in 2013. Protesters have vowed that they will not stop demonstrating until he steps down.
In addition, for the first time a large demonstration calling for the fall of the government was held on Tuesday in Dhamar, a governing party stronghold just south of Sana. Many senior government officials come from Dhamar, including the interior minister and the speaker of Parliament.
Source: The New York Times

Law canceling article 5 on voters' rolls issued

SANA'A- Mar 9, 2011- The Law No. 6 for 2011 was issued on Wednesday concerning the amendment to Law No. 26 for 2010, which amended Law No. 13 for 2001 on the General Elections and referendum.

The first article of the Law No. 6 stipulates canceling the article 5 of Law No. 26 for 2010, which lays down that "The voters' rolls on the date of issuance of this law are the finally adopted to the parliamentary election in 2011".

Source: (Saba)

Alarming Reality in Yemen

By Christopher Boucek

Sana'a- Mar 9, 2011- With weeks of protests rattling this strategic country on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is a real concern for the United States. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is maintaining a tenuous hold on power and Washington doesn’t want to see him go—his departure risks worsening an environment that dangerous terrorists already call home.

Yemen is facing an unprecedented confluence of crises, the combination of which threatens to overwhelm the beleaguered Yemeni government. The country’s problems include international terrorism, violent extremism, religious and tribal conflict, separatism, and transnational smuggling.

Making matters worse, the country has porous borders, a heavily armed population, and a historical absence of much central government control. These challenges not only endanger Yemen’s stability and regional security, but they also threaten American domestic security.

Because of the government’s inability to control its own territory, the local al-Qaeda affiliate—al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)—has found in Yemen the space it craves to plot and plan attacks.

Indeed, as I testified last week before the House Homeland Security Committee, AQAP is now the greatest single terrorist threat to the United States.

Just look at the evidence of the last few years. AQAP has repeatedly attempted to strike American targets. This is the organization behind the attempted Christmas Day 2009 attack and last October’s cargo bomb plot. The Christmas Day attack marked the first time al-Qaeda successfully engaged a domestic American target and the plot did not originate in South Asia. It came out of Yemen. Ten months later the organization struck again in what could have been a catastrophic attack. The simple—and alarming—reality is that the majority of the recent alleged terrorist plots in the United States have a connection to Yemen, AQAP, or Anwar Awlaqi.

While the al-Qaeda senior leadership, believed to be somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan, may still have the ambition to launch spectacular attacks against the United States, AQAP has emerged as the organization most likely to kill American nationals and to attack U.S. interests. Whereas core al-Qaeda is under sustained pressure, AQAP is exploiting the undergoverned spaces in Yemen to plan and mount operations.

What makes AQAP such a potent threat to the American homeland is a combination of factors.

AQAP has rapidly evolved into an increasingly lethal and agile organization, with a proven track record of mounting operations within Yemen, regionally, and internationally. It has a very fast learning curve, rapidly learns from its mistakes, and cycles this knowledge back into its operational planning.

More worrisome, when initial operations have been unsuccessful, AQAP has re-attacked the same target, such as the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a (attacked twice in 2009), Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayef (who has survived four reported assassination attempts by AQAP), and British diplomatic targets in Sana’a (attacked twice in 2010). This should serve as a very dire warning when we consider AQAP’s two attempted attacks so far against U.S. aviation targets.

Beyond a determination to mount persistent low-level attacks against American interests, AQAP is made even more dangerous by its highly sophisticated messaging operation. This is, after all, a terrorist organization that has taken a novel approach to recruiting and radicalizing Muslims in the West.

Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi regularly posts sermons online inciting English-speaking foreigners to engage in violence and militancy. He recently stated that attacks against Americans no longer need further authorization—previously issued fatwas justify all attacks

Through its glossy English-language magazine Inspire, now in its fourth edition, AQAP is able to broadcast its calls for attacks against the U.S. to a far broader audience of would-be radicals.

As recently as last summer, AQAP operated its own channel on YouTube featuring many of the group’s videos subtitled into English. While the channel is no longer available, the material remains online, reposted by other users.

In other words, AQAP has dramatically expanded its potential audience in a way that most other terrorist organizations have not.

No longer does one need Arabic or particular know-how to navigate jihadi web forums. Non-Arabic speakers can now access this material using Google and YouTube.

All this brings us back to the situation on the ground in Yemen, AQAP’s home base. Chronically unstable, it is a near-perfect breeding ground for terrorism.

Over the years, Yemen has expanded far beyond the role it once played as a place to train and prepare for jihad or to rest between campaigns. It is now a place from which potential extremists located overseas are being instructed in the pages of Inspire that they can do greater damage at home, without even needing to travel abroad.

Very clearly Yemen’s problems are not staying in Yemen and AQAP poses a grave and growing threat to American domestic security.

Christopher Boucek is an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and co-editor of the book, Yemen on the Brink.

Dialogue is the only way to solve Yemen problems, says U.S. diplomat

SANA'A- Mar 9, 2011- The U.S. ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein said on Wednesday that dialogue is the only way to solve the problems in Yemen.

In an interview with Saba-run Alsyasiah newspaper, he voiced his country's support to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's initiative that calls for a national dialogue.

He also stressed the importance of involving youths in political process in Yemen, describing the US government's warning to Americans against traveling to Yemen as a "precautionary".

Source: (Saba)

Political protests in Yemen forces switch of 2012 Olympics qualifier to neutral Abu Dhabi

By The Associated Press

ZURICH- Mar 9, 2011- Yemen's twice-delayed 2012 Olympics football qualifier against Singapore will now be played in the United Arab Emirates.

FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation chose Al Ain in the Abu Dhabi emirate as a neutral venue after deciding Yemen's capital Sana'a was unsafe due to the ongoing political protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The AFC says the two-leg tie will be played as a doubleheader on March 19 and 21 at Khalifa Stadium.

Yemen was scheduled to host the first leg on Feb. 23. The game was postponed for one week to see if Sana'a became safer.

Singapore forfeited its right to host a match so that Yemen did not lose any home advantage.

YEMEN: Anti-government Facebook groups, Web services under attack from "e-thugs", activist says

Sana'a- Mar 9, 2011- Battles between anti-government demonstrators and supporters of the Yemeni regime are apparently not only taking place in the country's streets but also on the Internet, where activists claim bands of pro-government electronic thugs, or "e-thugs", are aggressively attacking Facebook pages calling for the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime and recently spammed a pro-revolution Web service until collapse.

After hearing complaints from administrators and members of Yemeni pro-revolution groups on Facebook about some members trying to hinder the group from reaching its goals, harassing other members and at times even trying to steer the group into becoming supportive of President Saleh, Sweden-based Yemeni analyst and Web activist Walid Saqaf decided it was time to act.

On Yemen, Yemen's first news crawler and search engine that Saqaf set up a couple of years ago, he created a special service that allowed the public to report and blacklist members of Facebook groups that are known to be supporters of the Yemeni regime and users who may have attempted to sabotage groups calling for the ouster of President Saleh.

"This service allows users to report such members directly ... and involves the verification of the status of the reported user and upon verification of his/her pro-Saleh bias, the name is listed in a public database or list," said a press release issued by Saqaf on Monday. "The list could be used as a discretionary measure by group administrators to assess the risk before accepting certain members based on their history of posts that may have disrupted other groups."

But when Babylon & Beyond spoke to Saqaf on Wednesday, three days after the launching of the new service, he claimed that e-thugs had spammed the site so badly that he had been forced to take it offline.

"Unfortunately, the list has been temporarily suspended because of an attack by so many people reporting different pro-revolution members," he said in an e-mail. "The same thugs have used the service against the revolution. E-thugs are still springing up everywhere. It is a really distressing phenomena."

Saqaf, however, hasn't thrown in the towel, saying the project has only been put on hold until he and his colleagues figure out a way of thwarting the attacks.

"Now we have to change tactics.... I'm reaching out to some Facebook activists to see how to counter their attacks," he said.

Last month, Yemen Portal rolled out a special aggregator and search engine for posts from Facebook groups and pages calling President Saleh to step down. According to Saqaf, the aggregator tracked more than 120,000 posts and comments from more than 60 Facebook groups and other pages promoting Facebook-based efforts by Yemeni youth.

The battle continues.