Friday, May 6, 2011

Rallies underway as Yemen's Saleh vows to defy protests

May 6, 2011

Sana'a - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Friday he would defy the 'illegal' protests stirring his country, as tens of thousands of people gathered for anti-government rallies after Friday prayers.

'These crowds are a clear message that rejects the revenge and hate some outlaws and saboteurs are trying to spread between the Yemeni people,' Saleh told a group of supporters in Sabbine Square in Sana'a.

In another square nearby in the capital, tens of thousands of opposition activists gathered demanding the ouster of Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years.

'We want real freedom and equality and to institute a democracy where all the democratic principles are implemented in full,' Osama, a 30-year-old private sector employee told the German Press Agency dpa.

Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in other provinces, including Taiz, which has seen violent crackdowns by security forces over the past two months.

Protesters Friday were chanting 'The people want to try the murderer' and 'Leave Saleh, Leave!'

The demonstrations come after Saleh backtracked on statements suggesting he was ready to step down, transfer his powers to his vice president and form a government of national unity.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which has been trying to mediate a diplomatic solution to the crisis, said it would continue to work on getting both the opposition and Saleh to sign the deal in a bid to preserve stability and security in Yemen, the Bahrain news agency reported.

Under the proposed deal, the president would also retain the right to remain as head of the ruling party.

However, activists have already said they disapprove of the deal, which would guarantee Saleh immunity from prosecution.

More than 100 protesters have died since the uprising began earlier this year.

In Yemen, battle against Al Qaeda continues

Two alleged Al Qaeda militants are slain in what is believed to be a U.S. missile strike. Their deaths cast a spotlight on Al Qaeda's role in Yemen, where the group remains a threat even after Osama bin Laden's demise.

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times

May 6, 2011

Reporting from Cairo—

Two alleged Al Qaeda militants were killed when their car exploded Thursday in southern Yemen, an incident that bore the marks of a U.S. missile strike.

The deaths, reported by the Yemeni Defense Ministry, came a day after six Yemeni soldiers were killed when their military vehicle exploded near a market in Zinjibar, an Al Qaeda stronghold. Surviving soldiers opened fire, killing four civilians, a local journalist said.

Witnesses to the explosion Thursday reported seeing a drone aircraft in the wake of the incident, suggesting an American missile struck the car. The U.S. military began flying unmanned aircraft over Yemen last year, although at the time they were used for surveillance rather than strikes on militants. Pentagon officials had no comment on Thursday's incident.

The deaths cast a spotlight on the continuing fight against Al Qaeda in the wake of the killing of its leader, Osama bin Laden, by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan. Bin Laden's demise is not likely to weaken the Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, where members are believed to be exploiting recent public unrest in the capital, Sana, to expand their influence in impoverished rural towns and villages.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the latest iteration of Al Qaeda in Yemen, has drawn the attention of Western and Saudi intelligence agencies in recent months, more than Al Qaeda affiliates in South Asia.

The group has been linked to multiple international terrorism plots, including planting bombs aboard U.S.-bound planes last fall. Experts believe an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula member built the bombs used in the failed attack by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day 2009 and in another failed suicide attack that year, on Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayif.

Unlike other Al Qaeda offshoots that relied on Bin Laden directives, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's members have sworn oaths of loyalty to Nasser Wuhayshi, a former Bin Laden associate with the authority to order his own domestic and regional attacks, said Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert based at Princeton University.

"Bin Laden's death will not affect the issue of extremism in Yemen. Al Qaeda has many cells throughout the world and in Yemen, and even if the head of the organization is cut, other cells will come," said Murad Azzany, a professor at Yemen's Sana University who studies Islamist groups. "Extremism in Yemen flourishes primarily because of the political situation here. When rulers lack legitimacy, their people search for other sources of inspiration."

In Yemen, the 3-month-old protest movement to unseat President Ali Abdullah Saleh has provided opportunity for Al Qaeda to consolidate gains, particularly in the impoverished tribal south and east.

This week, as Saleh spurned mediation efforts by leaders of nearby Persian Gulf countries that would have had him step down in return for political immunity, Yemen appeared to be nearing either fundamental reform or civil war, each with profound consequences for the future of Al Qaeda.

"The organization in Yemen is very eager to conduct operations inside the country, in the region and abroad," Johnsen said."It remains to be seen whether, after Bin Laden's death, more people will want to join the Yemeni organization and carry on a kind of link with his personality."

One powerful, motivating force is likely to be U.S.-born imam Anwar Awlaki, believed to be hiding in southeastern Yemen, who has inspired terrorist attacks against the West. In 2009, Awlaki was promoted to the rank of "regional commander" within Al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials, and he has since used Facebook and YouTube to exhort Muslims around the world to kill Americans.

"He is emerging as a voice for recruiting individuals in the West," Johnsen said. "This is not at all like the traditional recruitment practices of the organization under Bin Laden's command in previous decades."

But Johnsen said Awlaki's appeal, though potent, is unlikely to draw Al Qaeda operatives to Yemen en masse, particularly from strongholds such as Pakistan.

"Al Qaeda wants to be as active as possible in as many places as it can," Johnsen said.

Within Yemen, the general populace does not appear to be swayed by Al Qaeda appeals for jihad.

"Osama bin Laden has no relation to me or to Yemen," said Talal Thabit, a businessman in Sana. "Hearing about his death, I feel nothing. My focus is on unseating our corrupt government and building a better future for all Yemenis."

But Saleh's opponents argue that he has allowed Al Qaeda affiliates to thrive and launch attacks.

"Terrorism in Yemen depends on a lack of transparency, and on the grievances produced by a corrupt and inefficient government," said opposition party leader Muhammad Ali Abu Lahoum.

If Saleh's government were replaced, he said, "the dark spaces in society in which these groups hide will be lit up, and their resources and appeal would be diminished."

Yemen's military split in late March, with several units joining protesters, and armed Islamist groups assumed control of broad swaths of the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, some of them aligned with Al Qaeda.

Those attempting to stem the expanding influence of Al Qaeda leaders insist that they need help from the central government to stop their spread.

"It's a very dangerous situation for us here," said Sheik Abu Abdullah Ba Hormuz, who lives in the southern city of Lawdar, which in recent years has witnessed repeated battles between government forces and suspected Al Qaeda militants.

He said Yemen's security forces recently left the areas to the local tribes to defend. Government officials urged them to form groups to defend themselves, but that may not be enough, he said.

"Al Qaeda has taken over in some towns and villages, but we will stay and face them, no matter what the cost," Hormuz said. "These people are killers, and there is no religion to what they do."

Source: The Los Anglos Times

Yemenis stage new mass protest to oust president

The crowd released tens of thousands of red, black and white balloons with anti-government messaging

By Associated Press

Sana'a, May 6, 2011- Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis have flooded a boulevard on the western edge of the capital to press their demand that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.

The crowd released tens of thousands of red, black and white balloons with the message to the president, "Leave, Ali," painted on them.

The near-daily protests in Yemen have been going on for nearly three months but Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, has refused to leave. Friday's protest is dubbed "Day of Gratitude to the South," honoring southerners 2007 uprising against Saleh.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Saleh's supporters are rallying outside the presidential palace in Sanaa.

Saleh has spurned mediation efforts by powerful Gulf countries that would have had him step down in return for immunity.

Amal al-Sadah, Bin Laden's 5th wife: The full story

By IB Times Staff Reporter | May 6, 2011

Osama bin Laden chose his fifth wife Amal al-Sadah from Yemen, the land of his ancestors. She married the terror leader at the age of 17 and lived with him till his last day. She was with him in his final moments, either willingly trying to act as a human shield or pushed in front by her cowering husband.

But there is more to her than whether she was a willing human shield for Osama or not. When one pieces together various -- and varying -- accounts circulating in the media, a colorful character emerges.

Here is a sneak peek into the life and lineage, choices and beliefs, and destiny and trials of Asma Al -Sadah.


The woman, who is 27 years old now, had reportedly married the terror ring leader when she was just 17. Britain's Daily Mail says her marriage to Bin Laden was reportedly arranged to strengthen the terrorist’s links with the Gulf state.

International Channel Watch News says her marriage to Bin Laden was arranged by a prominent Al Qaeda leader in Yemen called Sheikh Mohammed Rashed Saeed Ismail. Ismail, whose brother is in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay, reportedly said in 2008 that Amal was one of his students. “I am a matchmaker (marriage) Osama with his wife, Amal al-hard, which is one of my students,” he has reportedly told the Yemen Post.

Ismali zeroed in on Amal, who was from a town called Ibb in southwestern Yemen. According to a Sunday Times report last year, Amal was the daughter of a civil servant. “Coming from a modest Yemeni family, she could live with him the tough life in mountain caves and be someone he could mould. She was also someone who did not mind marrying a man as old as her father, and truly believed that being a dutiful and obedient wife to her husband would grant her a place in heaven,” The Times quoted Ismail.


The task of convincing the parents of Amal that Bin Laden was a suitable bridegroom lay on Ismail too. He told the parents that Bin Laden was looking for a wife and that the bridegroom was "famous and known for his piousness, humbleness, religion, strong belief, generosity and goodness. I told them that he would be a good husband for your daughter.”


The teenage girl, who Ismail says was very religious, was taken out of Yemen and brought to Pakistan. She stayed a few days in a guest house in Karachi before being taken to Quetta and from there to Kandahar in Afghanistan where bin Laden was stationed 11 years ago. Osama was 43 years when he married her.

"The wedding ceremony in the grounds of a compound was conducted by Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, Al-Qaeda’s then chief financial officer, better known as Sheikh Saeed al-Masri," the Times report says.

“Even at a young age, she (Amal) is very religious and believe in the things that Osama, a man who is very religious and pious-believe,” according to Ismail.

Ismail has reportedly said Amal was briefed about the life in store for her once she marries Bin Laden. He had reportedly told her that Laden had abandoned his fortunes and wealth to fight jihad and that he was sometimes living in caves, fearing for his life.

The report says that one of Bin Laden's body guards arranged for giving a dowry of $5,000 to the bride's family. The marriage was not attended by Amal herself, in keeping with the Sunni tradition.


Amal gifted Bin Laden with a child a few days after he took the lives of 3,000 people by attacking the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The female child was named Safiya. Bin Laden reportedly said the name was inspired by a person that killed a Jewish spy during the Prophet's time. Bin Laden hoped his child will kill "the enemies of Islam".

There hasn't been conclusive proof on whether Amal and Bin Laden have more children. However, it is more or less clearly established that the terror mastermind has at least 20 children from five wives.


Most of Bin Laden's wives and children were scattered by the time the terrorist leader had put together the fiercest attack of his career, the 9/11 attacks. One of the wives was in Syria, two in Saudi Arabia - which had scrapped Bin Laden's citizenship -- and another was living in Iran.

However, Amal stood by his side all along, and was with him during the last ten years when Bin Laden was the most wanted criminal in the world. And this meant that she was not much in touch with her family back in Yemen. "After 9/11 she was able to contact her mother and family occasionally but since 2003 there have been no further communications,” according to Ismail.


Now, a new diplomatic fight has broken out between the U.S. and Pakistan over the custody of Amal al Sadah. According to media reports, Pakistan turned down the American demand to interrogate her and even rejected the U.S. request to see her in a military hospital in Rawalpindi where she was being treated. The navy SEALs had shot her in the leg while she was apparently pushed in front by her husband on seeing the commandos.

Yemen's Saleh vows to resist 'outlaw' protesters

SANAA, May 6, 2011- (AFP) Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told a mass rally of supporters on Friday that he would resist calls to quit, describing as "outlaws" tens of thousands of protesters gathered a short distance away.

"I can assure you that I will resist," Saleh told the crowd in the capital Sanaa's Sabbine Square after taking part in the main weekly Muslim prayers at nearby Tahrir Square.

He hit out at the protesters who have been demanding that he step down immediately and said he would "strongly defend the constitution." His current term of office ends in 2013.

Protests demanding his departure has led to the deaths of 150 people since late January and efforts of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to broker a peaceful transition in Yemen remains stalled.

Saleh's rivals gathered for what they called the "Friday for the loyalty of the people in the south," while regime loyalists marked "Friday for security and stability."

At the Place of Change, the epicentre of the protests against Saleh, large crowds demanded his immediate exit and that he be brought to trial. There were no immediate reports of clashes between the two demonstrations.

"The people want to try the executioner," the crowds chanted.

A similar rally calling for Saleh's departure was held in Taez, the second largest city of Yemen, located 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Sanaa, witnesses said.

The latest show of strength came as the GCC moved to salvage an initiative that would see Saleh eased out of power and ending political unrest. The GCC has said it was awaiting a "signal" from Saleh to revive their efforts.

The country's main opposition Common Forum Thursday asked the Gulf Arab states to pressure Saleh to accept the transition plan and end months of political violence.

"We call on Gulf Cooperation Council states to put pressure on the president to take all necessary measures to force him to sign the agreement," said Mohammed Qahtan, spokesman of the Common Forum, an alliance of parliamentary opposition groups.

Saleh has insisted that any transition will be in line with the constitution even though his ruling party had accepted a GCC plan that would see Saleh step down at the end of a month from signing a deal.

The plan proposes the formation of a government of national unity, Saleh transferring power to his vice president and an end to the deadly protests rocking the impoverished Arabian peninsula nation since late January.

Last week, GCC Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani travelled to Sanaa to invite members of the government and the opposition to sign the transition plan in Riyadh and to obtain the president's signature.

However, Zayani left empty-handed after Saleh, in power for 32 years, refused to sign.

Saleh has been a close US ally in Washington's fight against Al-Qaeda. Slain Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's ancestral home is in Yemen and the US has expressed fears that Yemen could see a resurgence of the Qaeda activity.