Thursday, July 28, 2011

Somali pirates release UAE-flagged tanker

Ship freed without any ransom payment

July 29, 2011

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The UAE-flagged oil tanker MV Jubba XX was released on Wednesday after it was hijacked by Somali pirates on July 16 in the coast of Yemen, announced the National Transportation Authority (NTA).

NTA was also reassured about the safety of the oil tanker's 17 crew members after it was released. As a result of the UAE's good reputation and its strong relations with various countries, the tanker was released without any concessions or ransom payments.

By coordinating with the relevant bodies, NTA tracked the movement of the ship, which was being directed to Somalia by the pirates.

After the ship was hijacked, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Public Works and Chairman of NTA, immediately issued orders to investigate the incident, contact the ship's owners, and ensure the safety of the crew and release of the oil tanker.

Multi-national crew

The tanker is owned by Sharjah-based Jubba General Trading Co and has sailors from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Sudan, Myanmar, Kenya and Somalia.

The MV Jubba XX and its crew were seized on July 16 while carrying 3,500 tonnes of oil products from Umm Al Quwain port.

Tribal chief says Yemen's army kills at least 8 anti-government fighters north of capital

By Associated Press
Thursday, July 28
SANAA, Yemen — A Yemeni tribal leader says clashes with government troops in a mountainous area north of the capital have killed at least eight anti-government fighters.
Sheik Hameed Asem said fighters from his Arab tribe attacked an army unit Thursday, which responded by shelling and bombing tribal positions, killing at least eight and wounding dozens more.
Mutual animosity between the tribe and President Ali Abdullah Saleh has turned violent since the start of the uprising against Saleh’s regime six months ago.
The tribe has previously tried to prevent troops from entering the capital, Sanaa, where it feared they would attack protesters.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry accused opposition parties and a defected army unit of aiding the attack.

Yemen opposition fights stalemate, internal divisions

By Mohammed Ghobari
SANAA Thu Jul 28, 2011
(Reuters) - Frustrated over President Ali Abdullah Saleh's staying power and desperate for change, Yemeni opposition groups have taken a gamble by forming transitional governance councils that risk further splintering their fragile alliance.
Tens of thousands of people have massed across the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state for six months -- a motley crew of secularists and Islamists, separatists and nationalists, tribesmen and urbanites, protesting at 33 years of Saleh rule seen as scarred by repression, corruption and joblessness.
Yemenis had hoped to mimic the impact of Libyan rebels' Transitional National Council, which has received international recognition. The problem is they have already formed two councils, and loyalties are divided.
"The opposition was never really united except in its opposition to Saleh's regime. The cracks that are appearing were destined to come sooner or later," said analyst Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of Cornerstone Global Associates.
In "Change Square," where thousands camp out daily in the capital Sanaa, youth groups credited as the driving force of Yemen's protests have plastered their tents with signs trumpeting allegiance to their "Transitional Council."
They aim to set up a shadow government in a country facing a growing power vacuum, where a powerful branch of al Qaeda is thriving, since Saleh went to Saudi Arabia to recover from a June assassination attempt. He has vowed to return to rule.
But other tents in Sanaa are conspicuously bare, a sign they back the "National Council for the Forces of the Revolution" being developed by the Joint Meetings Party (JMP), an opposition coalition that once was part of Saleh's government.
South of the capital, in the protest hotbed of Taiz, some JMP supporters are not only chanting against Saleh, but the youth's Transitional Council, which they argue weakens their fight against a president clinging to power.
"No to the council of division," they shout.
Emerging fault lines could trigger fighting among some in a country where perhaps half the population of 23 million own a gun. Clashes have begun to flare near the border with Saudi Arabia, home to the world's biggest oil fields that foreign powers are eager to protect from Yemen's growing chaos.
A tenuous partnership between Shi'ite Muslim insurgents known as Houthis and Sunni Islamists of the Islah party has been shattered by violence that has killed dozens in recent weeks.
The United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of foiled attacks by al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, are wary of turbulence ideal for the group's operations. But they have yet to make decisive diplomatic moves and instead continue to back dialogue and a faltering power transition plan brokered by Gulf states.
The JMP, under criticism from youth protesters for sticking with the plan, accepted three different versions of the deal. Each time Saleh backed out at the last minute.
Saleh now says he will return to Yemen to lead a dialogue and may later call for elections.
Critics accuse Saleh, a shrewd political survivor, of dragging out the political process until the opposition's latent divisions begin to undermine it.
"The opposition knows Saleh has always survived by playing them against one another. They were wary of falling back into that same old trap," said Yemen scholar Gregory Johnsen of Princeton University. "So it was a gamble of desperation, I think, forming these councils."
As the deadlock drags on, conditions are growing worse for most Yemenis facing water, fuel and power shortages. Prices are skyrocketing for a population that cannot afford it. Even before the transition crisis, around 40 percent of Yemenis lived on less than $2 a day and a third faced chronic hunger.
As the wounded Saleh remains resolute, a full victory for the opposition looks less likely and analysts say neither Yemeni council stands much chance of drawing foreign support.
But Transitional Council members said they faced pressure from the thousands of street activists to act.
"The fear of dividing the opposition is no excuse. This council was demanded by the protesters," said council member Houria Mashour, a fiery woman in her 50s, her hair covered in a colorful veil as she campaigned for the youth-backed body.
To many protesters, forming councils was the only way they could think of challenging the months of political stalemate.
"What else did the JMP want us to do? We waited six months and they did nothing. We gave hundreds of martyrs and thousands of wounded, and the JMP is still living in this delusion of a Gulf initiative," said Sanaa protester Maysoon Abdulrahman, a supporter of the Transitional Council.
Some JMP leaders insist the vying councils will not cause problems, and could eventually cooperate.
"I don't think this will deepen divisions as much as start moving stagnant waters," said Abdelqawy al-Qaisi, spokesman for the powerful tribal leader Sadeq al-Ahmar, part of the JMP.
But Qaisi warned of consequences of protesters' eagerness to end the deadlock: "The opposition chose the political route, it is a long path but it is safe. The youth may not prefer this."
In Sanaa's Change Square, angry Mahmoud Abdullah, an impoverished civil servant, demanded more action and less talk.
"I'm not for any council. We need an escalation, to march to the presidential palace," he said. "We can't wait for America and Saudi Arabia to make our revolution for us."

Yemeni forces fire on protesters in south's Taiz

By Mohammed Ghobari
SANAA Thu Jul 28, 2011
(Reuters) - Yemeni security forces fired on protesters in the southern city of Taiz Thursday and fierce clashes erupted between tribesmen and army troops outside the capital Sanaa, opposition sources said.
Impoverished Yemen has been torn by sporadic violence as a mass protest movement pushing for an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule drags into its sixth month.
The turmoil in fractious Yemen has renewed fears it could become a failed state on the doorstep of Saudi Arabia, which holds the world's biggest oil reserves.
In Taiz, a hot spot of daily protests some 200 km (120 miles) south of Sanaa, activists said gunmen from the central security forces were raining fire on a square where demonstrators have been camped out for months.
"There is gunfire on the sit-in area now and we can also hear gunfire coming from a number of different streets," activist Bushra al-Maqtari told Reuters by telephone, shouting over the sound of shooting. She said it was still unclear how many had been hurt.
The attack began after a group of protesters marched outside of the sit-in area into the streets.
Demonstrators have grown increasingly frustrated by their inability to loosen Saleh's grip on power. Despite a bomb blast on his presidential compound in June that forced him to seek medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, Saleh has clung on.
Just two days ago, Republican Guard forces, which are headed by one of Saleh's sons, agreed a truce with pro-opposition tribesmen to stop fighting in Yemen's third city.
Farther north, in the town of Arhab outside of Sanaa, tribesmen there told Reuters that clashes had resumed between their fighters and army troops in the area.
They said warplanes had struck the sites where armed tribesmen were hiding after they attacked a military site in the area.
Yemen's defense ministry, in a text message sent to reporters in Sanaa, said its Third Mountain Infantry Brigade had been attacked. "The brigade is confronting armed men from the opposition that tried to sneak into its Samaa base," it said. "Terrorist militias used heavy weapons to attack the brigade."
One member of the brigade was killed and several wounded, but the defense ministry said its troops had inflicted heavier casualties on its opponents. The tribesmen have not yet given an estimate of deaths or wounded.
The United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of foiled attacks by al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, have tried to defuse the conflict in the Arabian Peninsula state by pressing Saleh to accept a power transition plan brokered by Gulf neighbors.
But the wounded Saleh has instead vowed to Yemen to lead a dialogue with the opposition and oversee a transition.
His foreign minister Wednesday said the president would try to set up elections after such a dialogue, which the opposition has refused to participate in until the 69-year-old leader resigns.

Clashes Erupt at Yemen Rallies

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Government loyalists and anti-government protesters have clashed in Yemen where rallies unfolded across the country on Wednesday.

Witnesses say several people were injured in the southern town of Ibb when pro-government gunmen opened fire on demonstrators.

The Associated Press says security forces and loyalists with sticks attacked a group of female protesters as they rallied in front of the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a. The embassy released a statement saying it regrets the violence and that peaceful demonstrators should gather without fear of “violent reprisal.”

Witnesses say a large protest also took place in Taiz, Yemen's second largest city.

Demonstrators have been seeking an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule. The president remains in Saudi Arabia, where he is recovering from injuries sustained in a June bombing at his presidential compound.

Reuters news agency quotes Yemen's foreign minister as saying Wednesday that Mr. Saleh will only cede power through an election. The minister also said the country would fall into civil war if Mr. Saleh is forced out.

In a separate development, security officials and tribesmen in Yemen said al-Qaida-linked militants are demanding a $12 million ransom for three missing French aid workers.

The two women and one man disappeared in May in the eastern city of Sayoun, where they had been working with a French-based relief agency.

French and Yemen authorities previously said the aid workers were probably kidnapped but had no definite word on their status.