Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yemeni Islamist leader survives assassination bid

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

By Ahmed Al-haj, Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen — An Islamist opposition party in Yemen says its leader has survived an assassination attempt by gunmen on his car in the nation's capital.

The Islah party says Mohammed Yadoumi was driving through Sanaa on Wednesday when the assailants opened fire on his vehicle, hitting it four times. Yadoumi escaped the attack unharmed.

The party blamed the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh for the attack. A government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Yadoumi's party is one of the most important opposition groups in Yemen and has been active in the more than five months of mass protests seeking to topple Saleh's regime.

British man killed in Yemen car bombing

By Fawaz al-Haidari (AFP) July 20, 2011

ADEN — A police official said a Briton was killed in a car bombing on Wednesday in the main southern Yemeni city of Aden, in an attack that an intelligence officer said carried the "fingerprints of Al-Qaeda."

The Briton, who was the head of a shipping company, was killed by a bomb in his car in the Moalla area near a hotel where his company has an office, the police official said.

The police officer did not comment on the motive of the attack but an intelligence officer told AFP: "The operation carries the fingerprints of Al-Qaeda."

Police did not let journalists approach the site of the blast.

Witness Abdullah al-Sharafi told AFP: "I heard the explosion, I hurried there and I found the car in pieces and a charred body."

Attacks are relatively rare in Aden, which remains generally calm despite deadly unrest in other southern provinces that have seen repeated clashes between suspected Al-Qaeda militants and security forces.

In neighbouring Abyan province, militants believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda took over much of the provincial capital Zinjibar in late May, and have been battling security forces ever since, displacing thousands of residents.

Aden was a British protectorate until 1967. It used to be one of the world's most important ports.

There have been a number of attacks against Western targets in Yemen, the most infamous of which was a waterborne suicide attack in 2000 against the warship USS Cole in Aden, in which 17 US sailors were killed and 38 wounded.

Britons have been targeted in more recent attacks, including on April 26, 2010, when the British ambassador to Yemen narrowly escaped being killed when a car bomb hit his convoy in Sanaa.

Then, on October 6 last year, a rocket-propelled grenade hit a British embassy car in Sanaa, wounding three people, including a diplomat.

Later the same month, two parcel bombs were discovered en route to the United States, one in Britain and the other in Dubai. Neither went off. The plot was claimed by Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Yemen is the ancestral homeland of veteran Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a US commando raid in Pakistan on May 2.

US commanders have repeatedly expressed concern that the jihadists have been taking advantage of a protracted power vacuum in Sanaa to expand their operations.

Protesters have since January been demanding the ouster of veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in hospital in Saudi Arabia since early June receiving treatment for wounds sustained in a blast at his palace.

He appeared on television on July 7 for the first time since the attack, heavily bandaged.

Three days later, he was shown on television receiving John Brennan, US President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser. He was in better shape than in his earlier appearance, although burns were still visible on his face.

Deputy Information Minister Abdo al-Janadi said on Saturday that Saleh will return home "soon" but the opposition has joined forces with rebels in both the north and the south of the country in a bid to block the veteran leader's resumption of power.

Analysis: Yemen's fuel mayhem to continue

By Humeyra Pamuk
DUBAI | Wed Jul 20, 2011
DUBAI (Reuters) - Fuel shortages in Yemen will persist even after its oil pipeline and main refinery recently restarted, because tanker-hijacking tribes and an emerging black market threaten fuel supply and add to the country's instability.
Yemen is only a small crude producer with a daily output of just 260,000 bpd of oil and modest liquefied natural gas sales.
But its location on the strategically important Bab al-Mandab strait, through which millions of barrels of oil and tonnes of other goods are shipped daily between Asia, Europe and the Americas, could make instability in Yemen a risk to global trade.
A mid-March attack by tribesmen on its main oil artery cut off crude to the 150,000 barrel per day Aden refinery, forcing it to shut, creating severe fuel shortages.
The poorest Arab country, already struggling to provide basic public services to the majority of the population, also lost export income and was forced to almost double its fuel imports when it could least afford to.
The quiet repair of the pipeline may have revived hopes that widespread fuel shortages will subside, but analysts say many other problems will continue to cause fuel shortages.
"We're now in the wild, wild west here," one Yemen-based Western shipping source said. "The repair of the pipeline will definitely solve some problems ... it will help the government with its finances. But the (poor) distribution of fuel, the black market -- those problems will remain."
The pipeline carries Maarib crude to the coast, where it is loaded on tankers for transport to the Aden refinery. The first shipment is expected to move later this week, shipping sources said.
But the real distribution challenge starts once the crude is refined.
"It's not as simple as the pipeline starting up and fuel being freely available," said Lucy Jones, Middle East analyst at risk consultancy Control Risk.
"Insecurity on the road to Aden means delivery to neighboring provinces remains extremely difficult; not only because you have actual fighting going on, but also because tribes are confiscating tankers or demanding lots of money to let them pass," she said.
Yemen has descended into chaos over the past six months as protestors have demanded the departure of its long-standing but increasingly unpopular president, Abdullah Ali Saleh.
The government has virtually been paralyzed since Saleh left for Saudi Arabia after an attack on the presidential compound. As he recovers from his injuries in Riyadh, the chaos has intensified in the political vacuum he has left behind.
"(Yemen) It's right next door to Saudi. It is sitting on the edge of a very important waterway," a Gulf-based trader who supplies fuel to the country said.
"I wouldn't want to think of a situation of tribes taking over the country.
The fuel crisis also has meant that many areas of the arid, mountainous country have gone without power for much of the day because of a lack of fuel for power plants, while water supplies to some regions have run dry.
The International Monetary Fund says Yemen's inflation rate may surge as much as 30 percent this year as the unrest and the damage to the oil pipeline have further strained the economy.
"The main problem was the fact that they were not getting income from oil exports, but also they were having to pay additional money for fuel," Control Risk's Jones said.
An injection of 3 million barrels of crude donated from Saudi Arabia allowed the Aden refinery to restart in June, but because the Saudi crude was not as light or low in sulfur as Yemen's Maarib oil, it did not yield anywhere near enough diesel and gasoline.
A senior government official said in late June that Yemen needed 4,000 tonnes of gasoline daily and was able to produce only 1,200 tonnes from the donated crude, forcing the cash-strapped government to continue imports.
On the burgeoning black market, gasoline and diesel are now sold at nine to 15 times the official price at established filling stations for the little fuel that can still be found, making life for the country's 23 million people, 40 percent of which live on less than $2 a day, even more difficult.
Gasoline, which was 75 Yemeni rials per liter before the crisis now is sold at 550-600 rials ($2.53-$2.76) on the black market, while the price for diesel has gone up to 1,000 rials from 60.
Fuel trucks feeding fuelling stations rely on armed guards for protection.
In early June, fuel shortages sparked violent clashes at petrol stations in several provinces, killing three people and injuring 12.

"After waiting in line for several days, I reached the front of the line at the petrol station at dawn Sunday. Suddenly there was a scuffle between some armed men who wanted to cut the line and the station workers, so the gunmen started shooting," Sanaa resident Mansour Ibrahim said.
"I didn't have any choice but to leave my car and flee, I was afraid I'd be killed, like others have."