Saturday, September 3, 2011

Three soldiers killed and others wounded in Aden

By Fatik Al-Rodaini

Sana'a, September 3, 2011 - At least three soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded in Yemen's southern port of Aden.

Sources said that a suicide bomber drove into a checkpoint on Saturday evening on the road between the city of Aden and Abyan province, where the army is battling Islamist militants.

The suicide bomber was also killed in the blast while the death toll was likely to rise. The number of people injured was not known.

Earlier Saturday, Yemeni military and medical officials said three soldiers and 12 militants were killed during clashes between Islamists and army units advancing on Zinjibar. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Militants have seized a number of cities in southern Yemen, taking advantage of political turmoil that erupted in February with mass protests against longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Signs of War in Yemen

Sana'a, September 3, 2011- Last week, a senior ruling General People Congress party official announced that the regime was mobilizing its troops in preparation for a possible military confrontation with forces loyal to General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar.

Since his defection from the regime in March 2011, Mohsen has declared himself the defender of the revolution, vowing to use his position as Yemen’s most powerful military man to protect those opposed to president Saleh.

According to the GPC official website, Yemen’s intelligence services would have received confirmation that the 1st Armored Division intended to provoke the government armed forces in a bid to draw them into an all out war. Apparently this plot was hatched by a number of dissident military commanders, some tribal figures belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and some men loyal to Sheikh Abdel-Mageed al Zindani, Yemen’s powerful cleric.

“The serious aggravating plan, that the security authorities obtained some of its details, indicates that the 1st Armored Division intends to launch a sudden assault on a camp belongs to the Republican Guards Forces, located in the outskirts of Sana’a, and taking over the military equipment of the camp and locating inside it, in coordination with jihadist militias and tribesmen involved in the conflicts these are taking place in Arhab for several months,” wrote the website.

In recent weeks rumor had it that Sheikh al-Zindani who is allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, was preparing to invade Sana’a by way of the international airport. His stronghold of Arhab is only a few kilometers north of the capital, in direct alignment with its airport and the most important Republican Guards’ base in the region.

Despite daily air raids and a heavy military presence in the Arhab area, the government forces have been so far unable to quell the tribal rebellion.

Furthermore, sources from within Mohsen’s base confirmed that there had been indeed an unusual amount of activities over the past few days with a grand scale mobilization of all military personnel, the set up of new checkpoints and the relocation of some key equipment. All leaves of absence were also cancelled.

Ahmed Ali Abduallah Saleh, the president’s eldest son and Head of the Republican Guards responded to the report of such a plot by summoning troops based in Dhamar back to the capital. Eye witnesses in the town told the press that a huge army convoy was making its way towards Sana’a. Tanks and heavy military vehicles also were seen arriving to the presidential palace over the past few days.

Mohamed Qahtan, the Opposition’s spokesman also told Al-Khaleej newspaper, “the people are able to end the existence of the regime in a matter of days, if they decide to settle the issue in a military way”. He added that it was time for Saleh’s clan to make a quick exit if they did not want to “face the people”.

Qahtan’s statement is maybe his strongest yet.

The JMP spokesman went one step further in his demands when he requested the surrender of “the boys”, while referring to Saleh’s sons, warning them that if they did not, they would “face the flood of the revolution which will sweep them and end their usurpation.

He ended his interview with the paper by saying that although he wished for the settlement of the revolution to happen peacefully, he and those opposed to the regime would not hesitate to use force if Saleh refused to step down. “The situation in Yemen has matured enough, waiting has lasted enough and the Yemeni wisdom has taken its ample fortune.”

Residents around 60th street where for the past few months protesters have been camping out, told Yemen Post that the tents had been removed, replaced by armed men loyal to General Mohsen al Ahmar or Sheikh Sadeeq al-Ahmar.

And although no bullet has been shot yet, many Sana’a residents are bracing themselves as they feel that an armed confrontation is most likely to happen.

Source: Yemen Post

State issues Yemen travel warning

Sept. 2, 2011

ASHINGTON, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department Friday issued a travel warning for Yemen, saying the threat of terrorist activities and civil unrest makes travel unsafe.

State urged U.S. citizens to leave Yemen while commercial transport still is available. The embassy is on restricted staffing, making it difficult to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency, State said, adding that the security situation is "fluid."

"The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high," State said in the warning. "There is ongoing civil unrest throughout the country and large-scale protests in major cities. Violent clashes are taking place in Sanaa, and may escalate without notice. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.

"U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration. Terrorist organizations continue to be active in Yemen, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The U.S. government remains concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests."

The warning also mentioned piracy "in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean."

Nexen shutdown threatened in Yemen

By Dina O'Meara, Calgary Herald September 3, 2011
Disgruntled Yemeni oil and gas workers threatened to shut down Nexen Inc. operations for a second time this year, saying union demands from a strike in May have yet to be met.
More than four months of negotiations have ground to a halt on Nexen's "intransigent attitude," union representatives in strife-torn Yemen said by e-mail Friday.
The oil and gas union also called on the government to end its 20-year partnership with the Calgary-based company when Nexen's contract on its prolific Masila block expires in December.
Nexen currently is negotiating a five-year extension on its 52 per cent production agreement with the Yemen government.
"We believe that all the outstanding items discussed in May have either been resolved or there are processes to resolve them," said Nexen spokesman Pierre Alvarez in an interview. "We continue to talk with the union and hope that a strike will not occur." Nexen was forced to halt oil production at its Yemen sites in May after almost 1,000 local workers walked off the job over compensation.
The Yemen assets produced a net total of 34,700 barrels per day in the second quarter, or roughly 17 per cent of the company's overall year-end production of 242,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.
Friday's warning by the union came at the same time millions of anti-government protesters gathered in the nation's capital calling for rebel forces to quash President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime by any means. The Middle Eastern country has been swept by revolutionary fervour since February during the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, raising concerns about existing contract structure with foreign investors.
TransGlobe Energy Corp., which holds $100 million US in non-operated oil and gas assets and reserves in Yemen, said the company was confident its contracts with the government would be honoured.
The company's operations were shut down for five months after rebels bombed a key export pipeline, but resumed production in mid-July.
"Things are pretty unsettled in Yemen, and one would hope that it will work itself out soon," said Dave Ferguson, chief financial officer. "But the country does need investment from outside, so I think they would be hard-pressed not to honour contracts."

Yemen: 30 al-Qaida suspects killed in US airstrikes in the south

By Associated Press, Saturday, September 3, 2011

SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni military and medical officials say 30 al-Qaida suspects have been killed in U.S. airstrikes and clashes with Yemeni soldiers in al-Qaida-held cities in the south.

A military official said that the United States bombed al-Qaida positions Wednesday and Thursday, which militants had seized taking advantage of the political turmoil in the country. Yemen has seen mass protests against longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The airstrikes reportedly freed a Yemeni military unit besieged in southeast Abyan for several weeks by al-Qaida militants.

Western officials said the airstrikes were not conducted by U.S.

A medical official says four Yemeni military officers were also killed in the clashes Wednesday and Thursday. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

In Yemen’s struggles, signs of tribal clout

By Sudarsan Raghavan, Saturday, September 3, 2011

SANAA, Yemen — Hamid al-Ahmar is not a member of Yemen’s ruling party or its military. He holds no formal position in its opposition movement. Nor can he claim the authority of a religious leader.

Yet Ahmar is anything but a mere observer in the seven-month-old populist uprising to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He is a billionaire, a scion of the country’s most powerful tribal family, and he is using his money and power to assert a role in a new Yemen.

He has bankrolled protest marches in 10 provinces, providing everything from microphones to transportation. He commands tens of thousands of tribesmen, including a heavily armed contingent that guards him day and night. His tribe’s clout has bought him access and influence; now it is providing Ahmar with a power base, one that has brought fresh energy to the revolution but has also spawned more violence and chaos.

“I am living with this revolution, day by day, hour by hour,” the 43-year-old said in an interview inside his opulent mansion.

Perhaps more than in any other country in the Middle East, the bonds of the vast extended families known as tribes occupy a central role in Yemen, a country ruled by two rival groupings, the Bakeel and the more powerful Hashid.

But Yemen is hardly alone in the region being riven by tribal loyalties; tribes are a factor in Libya, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and across the Persian Gulf. In some ways, they play a role just as important as the government, military, clerics and the opposition, injecting another unpredictable dynamic into the turbulence of the Arab Spring.

The Ahmars are blue bloods in Yemen’s tribal society.

Hamid al-Ahmar’s late father, Abdullah, headed the Hashid tribal federation, to which Saleh’s tribe also belonged. Abdullah al-Ahmar also headed the country’s largest opposition party, Islah, and served as speaker of parliament. Hamid’s elder brother now heads the Hashid federation.

In Yemen, tribes make up the central social unit, and their power has only grown in recent years, while Yemen’s central government has proven incapable of controlling much of the country. Most Yemenis depend on their tribes for jobs and other services.

To help maintain his power during more than three decades of rule, Saleh turned again and again to the Ahmars, in a symbiotic relationship not unlike his bond to Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen, the country’s most powerful military leader — one in which all parties chose to overlook their differences.

In return for help from the Ahmars and Mohsen, Saleh gave them wide latitude to “run their affairs with informal armies, courts and economic empires” and made “direct payments from the treasury to the ... tribal and military constituencies,” then­U.S. Ambassador Thomas C. Krajeski wrote in a 2005 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

This year, following the deaths of 52 protesters by snipers loyal to Saleh, the Ahmar clan and Mohsen broke with the president and openly expressed support for the uprising.

‘A fiery combination’

As a child, Hamid al-Ahmar played with Saleh’s sons and nephews. In high school, Ahmar started a tourism company, using family money. He earned an economics degree at Sanaa University and spent two summers in England, where he studied English. He also studied the language in the San Francisco Bay area for four months while visiting one of his nine brothers, Sadiq, who was training to become a pilot.