Sunday, May 15, 2011

One Soldier Killed and others Wounded in Al-Qaeda Attack in Abyan Province

By Fatik Al-Rodaini

Sana'a, May 15, 2011- At least one soldier was killed and several others were injured in an attack believed to be suspected Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen's southern province of Abyan.

Sources said that the attacked carried out their attack in the city of Zenjibar at the entrance of a public market, killing one soldier and wounding others.

On the other hand, suspected Al-Qaeda militants abducted an officer in the city of Lawder. The officer who is working at the intelligence apparatus was kidnapped by an armed group in the city.

Meanwhile, a senior in Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula promised to revenge for Osama bin Laden's death, who was killed in a raid by American forces in Pakistan two weeks ago.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, has increased its attacks against Yemen's forces since the rise of protests demanding President Saleh to step down.

Yemeni Opposition Says GCC-Backed Political Plan Is ‘Dead’

By Mohammed Hatem

Sana'a, May 15 (Bloomberg) -- Yemen’s Joint Meetings Party, a coalition of six opposition groups, says a plan to end the country’s political crisis is dead following a visit by the chief envoy of Arab Gulf states seeking to broker a deal.

While the coalition is willing to meet Abdel Latif al- Zayyani, the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, again to explore new options, the current proposal was considered “dead,” Mohammed Qahtan, spokesman for the opposition, said in a telephone interview today.

Thousands of protesters returned to the streets in Sana’a, the capital, today calling for an end to the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Several people marched through the streets carrying a makeshift coffin with the words “GCC Initiative” written on the side.

Protests have persisted since the government and the Joint Meetings Parties failed to sign a GCC-brokered plan last month. Under the terms of the plan, Saleh would have ceded power within a month of signing the deal and would be granted immunity from prosecution. Al-Zayyani visited Sana’a yesterday to revive the group’s stalled peace initiative, the official Saba news service said.

Protests in Yemen calling for an end to Saleh’s rule are in their third month. At least 100 people have died as security forces have repeatedly fired on demonstrations that began on Feb. 11, according to the Arabic Sisters Forum for Human Rights in Sana’a.

Saleh U-Turn

In March, Saleh, 69, agreed to an opposition proposal to hand over power by the end of the year, then backtracked by saying he’d stand down only after a newly elected government was formed and power was transferred to safer hands. The agreement was brokered by ministers from the GCC, which includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.

“There’s still hope that the crisis will be resolved,” Osama al-Nuggali, director of the information department at the Saudi Foreign Ministry, said in a telephone interview from Riyadh today. “A diplomatic solution, no matter how long it takes, will be less costly on Yemeni lives and on their security and stability. The alternative is scary.”

Osama bin Laden dead: Arab world's future is democracy, says his widow's brother

The brother of the young woman whom Osama bin Laden took as his last wife has declared that the Arab world's future now lies in democracy, not radical Islam.

By Jeb Boone and Shatha al-Harazi in Sana'a 15 May 2011

Zakaria al Sada, whose sister Amal was shot and wounded during the raid that killed bin Laden thirteen days ago, spoke out in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, in which he also pleaded for her release by the Pakistani authorities.

"Amal should be brought back to be with her family," said Mr Sada, 24, who has been taking part in the recent "Arab Spring" street protests demanding political reform in Yemen. "Bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda is over, there is no reason to keep her."

Amal, 29, is currently being held in Pakistan after being shot in the leg during the US raid on the al-Qaeda leader's compound at Abbottabad on May 2.

Her family, from the city of Ibb, in the rugged mountains of northern Yemen, have demanded the Pakistani and Yemeni governments allow her to now return home with the child she fathered with the al-Qaeda leader. She is being kept incommunicado in a military hospital near Islamabad, unable to speak to her Yemeni family with whom she has had virtually no contact since marrying bin Laden in 1999.

The fifth child out of three brothers and four sisters, her liaison with the world's most wanted terrorist was the product of a traditional arranged marriage fixed up by a bin Laden follower known as Rasdah Mohammed Saeed - also known as Abu al-Fida, who is now a member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Although the family knew who bin Laden was, they had no objection to the union as it took place prior to the 9/11 atrocities, at a time when he was seen by many in Yemen as an Islamic warrior who had distinguished himself fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. The jihad against Soviet occupation was a popular cause in Yemen, where many had bitter memories of the fall of the southern half of their country to Marxist rule in the 1960s.

"In 1999, bin Laden was respected as a freedom fighter and fought against the Soviet occupation," said Mr Sada. "This was before September 11. That is why my father consented to the match. He was not a wanted man then. No one considered him to be a terrorist."

Bin Laden paid a $5,000 dowry for Amal, who went to Afghanistan to wed him and soon after bore him a daughter, Safia. Knowing the risks that life at his side would bring, the al-Qaeda leader is said to have given her the option of leaving the country. But she later told her father, Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al Sada, who made a brief visit to her before the 9/11 attacks, that she was happy and would willingly face "martyrdom". At the time of his father-in-law's visit, bin Laden gave no indication of the 9/11 plans, but did apparently warn that a world-changing event was imminent.

Describing his sister, Mr Sada painted a picture of a pious woman, who had been the apple of his father's eye.

"She has always been a very kind and polite girl," he said. "She was absolutely my parents' favourite daughter, and I remember how she used to gather us and give us lectures on good Islamic manners and taught us how to be kind to others. Once when we were children, we went to throw stones at our neighbours from the roof. Amal found out about it and told us off, reminding us how the Prophet ordered us to treat others with kindness."

The Sada family only found out that Amal was shot in the US raid on bin Laden's compound from subsequent news reports. Although the Pakistani authorities have said she will be released, they are worried that both the CIA and Pakistan's ISI intelligence service will consider her a "high-value" asset and keep her in detention.

"My mother cries constantly," added Mr Sada, who has asked Pakistan's ambassador to Yemen for help in getting his sister home. "At first, it was reported that she had actually been killed, and that put our family through undue suffering. However, we know that if the US wanted to get rid of Amal, they would have simply killed her along with Bin Laden. That fact eases our worries slightly.

"But Amal had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or terrorism of any kind. No law can incriminate her, and international law dictates that she should be returned to her family."

As of yet, he said, the family did not even know which hospital in Pakistan she was being held in - or even how many children she had conceived with bin Laden. They knew of only one child for certain, but suspected that at least one of the other 12 children found in the compound was hers.

"This is a humanitarian situation; these children have seen their father killed in front of their eyes and they should be treated by a psychiatrist," added Mr Sada. "Amal was also shot for no reason, she wasn't even armed."

A third year student in mass communication at Yemen's Sana'a University, the softly-spoken Mr Sada cut a rather different figure from his devout sister and extremist brother-in-law. Dressed in a navy blue suit rather than the traditional robes and jambiyah dagger favoured by many Yemeni men, he conducted the interview in a cafe popular with young "Facebook generation" Yemenis surfing the internet on laptops.

While bin Laden always railed against democracy - seeing it as the rule of man rather than God - Mr Sada has been engaged in Yemen's pro-democracy protests since January, when a popular uprising first toppled the government of Tunisia.

"I've been protesting since January 15, back when there were only 20 of us showing up to rallies," he said. "I am protesting against corruption, against the absence of justice and equality in Yemen. When people live in equality, there will be no more al-Qaeda."

Envoy Arrives for Negotiations in Yemen as Casualties Mount


Published: May 14, 2011

SANA, Yemen (Reuters) — Plainclothes gunmen opened fire on protesters in the southern city of Taiz in Yemen on Saturday, wounding at least 15 people, witnesses said, while an envoy from a Persian Gulf regional group arrived to try to revive a plan to end the crisis.

Protesters have been demonstrating across Yemen for months to try to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh in an uprising inspired by movements that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. A plan negotiated by neighboring gulf states for Mr. Saleh to step down in exchange for immunity fell through last month when he refused to sign it.

The gunmen fired from rooftops on protesters who were demanding that Mr. Saleh end more than three decades of rule in the Arab world’s poorest country.

Three people were killed and 15 wounded Friday, when troops shot at protesters in Ibb, south of the capital, Sana. The latest killings pushed the death toll since protests began to at least 170.

Security forces on Saturday also arrested Ahmed al-Musaibli, a leading broadcaster who had left state television to work for an opposition satellite channel, witnesses said.

Mr. Saleh, a wily political survivor, has clung to power despite defections from politicians, army officers and tribal leaders.

The secretary general of the regional group, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdullatif al-Zayani, arrived in Sana for a three-day visit to try to resurrect the power-transfer deal, which the council brokered between Mr. Saleh and opposition leaders.

Although the political opposition approved the deal, the street protesters never signed on. They rejected the plan’s 30-day transition period, arguing that Mr. Saleh was not serious about stepping down and only stalling for time and insisting on his immediate departure. They also disagreed with the promise of immunity, saying he should be held responsible for the deaths of protesters.

The deal fell apart two weeks ago when Mr. Saleh made it clear that he would not sign the agreement as president, but as leader of the governing party.

Since then, the street protests have continued and diplomatic efforts have stalled.

Mr. Zayani, the Gulf states’ envoy, was to meet with Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi on Saturday evening, a Yemeni official said.

The Gulf Cooperation Council includes oil-rich neighbors on the Arabian peninsula who share a stake in stability in Yemen, where the regional wing of Al Qaeda is based. Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s largest foreign donor, is considered the council’s most influential member.

In the central town of Rada, gunmen fatally shot six soldiers and wounded seven in an attack on a checkpoint on Friday, a local official said, blaming Al Qaeda.

Yemen also faces violence from separatists in its south and a tenuous peace with Shiite rebels in the north.

In remarks published in the Saudi daily newspaper Okaz on Saturday, Mr. Saleh said that after any transfer of power he planned to take to the streets as the opposition and “bring down the government again.”

He said the deal for him to leave office needed further negotiation. “There are some clauses in it that are obscure and ambiguous, requiring better clarification through direct talks with the Yemeni groups,” he was quoted as saying.