Monday, September 5, 2011

Suicide bomber captured in Abyan

ABYAN, Sep. 05 (Saba) - The popular committees in Lawdar district of Abyan province arrested on Monday a suicide bomber of al-Qaeda, a local source has said.

The popular committees handed over him to the 111 Brigade Camp, the source, adding that another terrorist has managed to escape.

He said that the suicide bomber was intended to carry out a suicide attack against the popular committees' youths in the district.

The suicide bomber, 19, from Marib province was arrested with an explosive belt and two grenades, according to the source.

The preliminary information indicated that the suicide bomber is a part of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell targets the popular committees' youths and citizens in Lawdar, he added.

This is the third attempt targeting the popular committees, the source said.

On the other hand, two citizens were wounded in Lawdar due to a burst of an explosive device planted by al-Qaeda terrorists targeting a checkpoint of the popular committees.

Yemen ruling party to discuss UN roadmap

September 5, 2011 (AFP)

SANAA — Yemen's ruling party is to meet to discuss a UN-proposed roadmap for embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power to his deputy, a party official said on Monday.

"The general committee of the General People's Congress will meet within the next few days to discuss the roadmap," in line with a call from Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, the official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

The UN roadmap was drawn up in two weeks of talks in July held by UN envoy Jamal Benomar in Yemen with the opposition and leading figures of the GPC, according to opposition sources and a Western diplomat.

They said the plan has four points, including a handover of power by Saleh to his deputy, Hadi, followed immediately by talks on a transitional period ranging from three to six months.

The interim period would see the formation of a reconciliation government, the restructuring of military bodies, and preparations for and setting a date for a new presidential election.

The roadmap is similar to a Gulf-brokered mediation plan which Saleh has refused to sign for several months.

But whereas the Gulf plan stipulates a one-month interim period ending with Saleh's resignation, the UN roadmap provides for an extended period of up to six months.

Unlike the roadmap, the Gulf plan does not call for a restructuring of military institutions, the most powerful of which are controlled by Saleh's family members.

A Western diplomat told AFP the roadmap has the endorsement of all the international parties concerned.

Saleh remains in Riyadh, recovering from bomb blast wounds after his Sanaa compound was hit on June 3. He has vowed to return to Yemen soon, defying months of deadly protests demanding his ouster after 32 years in office.

The British envoy to Sanaa on Monday urged all parties to take part in negotiations based on the GCC plan and the UN-proposed roadmap.

"The priority now should be for all sides to be more active in negotiating a political settlement based on the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) initiative and the roadmap for implementation of political transition developed by UN envoy Jamal Benomar," ambassador Jonathan Wilks said on the embassy's website.

"What Yemen needs urgently is a peaceful political settlement to the crisis. Violence is not a solution to any of Yemen's problems," he said, as tension escalated with troops and gunmen loyal to Saleh deployed in the capital.

Future of al-Qaeda in Arab region vague following Arab Spring

Omar Halawa

Mon, 05/09/2011

The ability of Al-Qaeda to implement its jihadist ideas in the Arab region following the Arab Spring is shrouded in mystery after both Egyptians and Tunisians managed to bring down their regimes through peaceful revolutions.

In its messages before the breakout of the Arab revolutions, Al-Qaeda emphasized that those Arab regimes that fail to implement Islamic Sharia law must be toppled through the use of violence.

Before the Arab Spring, which started with the Tunisian revolution in late 2010, several Arab countries witnessed attacks by Al-Qaeda. However, after revolutionaries toppled former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the start of the year, it became essential for Al-Qaeda to justify its jihadist approach as the only vehicle for change in the Arab region.

According to Waheed Abdel Maguid, an expert on Islamist movements at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, the future of Al-Qaeda is dependent on the outcome of ongoing revolutions in Syria and Yemen.

The hostility of Arab institutions toward Al-Qaeda remains unchanged. Joint forces of the Egyptian military and police forces recently launched a wide-scale security campaign in Sinai to eliminate what are believed to be Al-Qaeda cells in the area. North Sinai was a focus of the campaign because police stations and economic facilities have been repeatedly attacked over recent months.

Recently, statements have been issued by a group calling itself Al-Qaeda in Sinai, including calls for transforming Sinai into an Islamic emirate.

Meanwhile, Ashraf al-Sherif, a political lecturer at the American University in Cairo, ruled out the possibility of Al-Qaeda cells in Egypt. Sinai residents’ poor living conditions, marginalization and ongoing battles over land ownership has likely led to the emergence of violent armed groups in the area, he said.

Sherif added that the fact that these cells have been influenced by Al-Qaeda's ideas does not necessarily indicate their affiliation to the organization.

Al-Qaeda's founder and long-time leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a US military raid in Pakistan on 2 May. Two weeks after his death, Al-Qaeda released a final taped statement from bin Laden, in which he praised the revolutions of the Arab Spring. "I think that the winds of change will blow over the entire Muslim world, with permission from Allah," he said.

Al-Qaeda's new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a televised recording aired on several satellite channels in April that the Egyptian revolution started as a popular one and then transformed into a military coup. He called the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) untrustworthy.

Zawahiri's statements may be seen as an attempt to antagonize the SCAF in order to protect its waning popularity, which is largely based on hostility toward Arab leaders.

Zawahiri has only made one other recording since his statement in April; in the statement, he called on Egyptians to establish Islamic rule.

Abdel Magid believes Zawahiri was not addressing more moderate Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, but rather the extremist jihadist groups that have yet to elaborate on their visions for the future.

Sherif adds that the current rise of Islamists in Egypt will not foster the growth of Al-Qaeda or Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Egypt. He believes that violent Islamist thought does not exist in Egypt. Recent sectarian incidents that took place in Egypt, he said, are random and not the prompted by a particular ideology.

Diaa Rashwan, the head of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said Zawahiri's messages reveal his inability to penetrate Egypt, particularly since he does not have an organization in Egypt directly affiliated to him. He added that Zawahiri hopes that Salafi jihadist groups will continue their jihad.

Al-Qaeda, which started to crumble after the death of its leader Osama Bin Laden, will find it difficult to implement its ideas now that its chief source of inspiration is gone, said Rashwan.

Zawahiri was ranked second in Al-Qaeda before becoming its leader following the death of Bin Laden in May.

Over the past decade, several armed Islamist movements have emerged, including Fateh al-Islam in north Lebanon and the Army of Islam in Palestine. Both define themselves as jihadist movements affiliated with al-Qaeda.

In an article in the independent daily Al-Tahrir, Khaled al-Berri said these movements serve Arab regimes, since none of them have carried out any resistance attacks against Israel.

Experts also believe the Yemeni revolution is not likely to be affected by Al-Qaeda, even though Nasser al-Wahishi, the leader of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Jihad in Yemen, said Al-Qaeda is present in Yemeni protests.

Sherif believes the presence of Al-Qaeda in Yemen is limited to the south, and bares some similarity with other armed groups opposing the Yemeni regime, such as the Shiaa Houthis in the north, he says.

In an audio recording addressed to Zawahiri and broadcast on several news websites, Wahishi said he was implementing Al-Qaeda’s plans to establish an Islamic state in Yemen. Wahishi's movement conducted several armed operations in Yemen, the most notable of which was an attack on the US Embassy in Sanaa in 2008.

Two weeks ago, the US Defense Department announced the killing of Attia Abdel Rahman, the second-ranked man in Al-Qaeda after Zawahiri, at the hands of its troops in Pakistan. Abdel Rahmam was also the liaison between the members of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and its branches in Iraq and Morocco.

Anna Murison, who monitors Islamist violence for Exclusive Analysis, a London-based risk consultancy, told Reuters that Abdel Rahman was widely trusted throughout the organization and Islamists from varied backgrounds listened to him.

“Al-Qaeda is an idea that will live on, but Al-Qaeda as an organization looks pretty much finished, as there are so few people who can move up into those senior ranks," she said.

Protests In Yemen Renewed

September 5, 2011

In various parts of Yemen, thousands of people renewed protests on the streets to again pressure President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down from office and the government to quickly act on reforms concerning the ragged economic state of Yemen. When the Jasmine Revolution, or the Arab Spring, rippled across the North African and Middle Eastern world, civil uprisings in Yemen started to shake the country starting in mid-January 2011.

Following violent clashes along with the deaths of more than 30 protesters between government security forces and protesters, the Yemeni government offered the protesters economic and political reforms including the modification of the Yemeni constitution.

However Yemeni protesters wanted more and called for more reforms and a crackdown on the rampant level of government corruption along with the resignation of President Saleh.

In order to calm the furious and growing masses, President Saleh announced that he would not be running for president in the 2013 elections. Despite his announcement, protests continued as protesters stated that they will not be going back home until all of their demands are met.

Eventually President Saleh caved in and promised to hold early presidential elections. This time he did not clarify the date of the presidential elections nor if he will be running for these early elections.

This time the protests were called by the Media Center for the Revolutionary Youth based in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa which attacked the government saying that the Yemeni government officials have no intention to “bow to the will of the people”. In return, Saleh-loyalists have also turned out for their own rallies in response to the protests.

Though there haven’t been cases of violence between the two sides, there have been confirmed reports of a suicide car bombing in the port city of Aden which killed five Yemeni soldiers.

Many protesters believe that President Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, is just stalling for time with the promise of early presidential elections.

President Saleh is currently recovering from the injuries he sustained from a bomb attack inside the presidential palace in June at the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. The spokespeople of the Yemeni government stated that President Saleh will be returning to Yemen after investigations regarding the bomb attack are over.

Botched air strike kills 5 Yemeni civilians in south

ADEN | Mon Sep 5, 2011

(Reuters) - Yemeni warplanes mistakenly killed five civilians in raids on suspected militant strongholds in the country's volatile south, a military official said, in a series of strikes on Monday targeting elements thought to belong al Qaeda.

At least 24 people -- civilians and militants -- were killed in the raids on various sites in the province of Abyan, where the army is waging an offensive against militants emboldened by months of upheaval in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state.

The United States and Saudi Arabia fear the turmoil will give al Qaeda's Yemen-based branch more room to launch attacks in the region and beyond.

The botched air strike on the city of Jaar in Abyan targeted a building thought to be hiding militants, but killed five civilians and injured three instead, the official said.

Warplanes also bombed Jaar hospital which militants had occupied to treat their wounded comrades, a local official said. A witness said he saw the bodies of seven militants being carried out of the building for burial.

Militants have seized several towns in Abyan, situated just east of a strategic shipping strait where some 3 million barrels of oil pass through daily.

A security official said at least 10 people believed to belong to al Qaeda were killed in an overnight air raid on a suburb of Abyan's capital Zinjibar, which was seized by militants in May.

Further south, two more militants were killed in air strikes on the coastal town of Shaqra, which was taken over in recent weeks despite reports from the army that it was making gains against the militants.

Yemen is mired in armed violence as a political standoff between President Ali Abdullah Saleh and opponents to his 33-year rule drags into its seventh month. Saleh is now in Saudi Arabia, where he sought medical treatment after being injured in a June assassination attempt on him.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have fled violence in Abyan, where clashes between militants and the army erupt almost daily.

In Lawdar, another city in Abyan, tribesmen detained a suicide bomber who they said was wandering around a market apparently looking for a target.

A local official said a stall owner at the market grew suspicious of the man and alerted armed tribesmen guarding the area. The men found an explosives belt strapped around the suspect's waist when they captured and searched him.

The defense ministry confirmed a 19-year-old aspiring suicide bomber had been caught. It said he planned to attack the army.

Some tribes have joined forces with the military to try to flush militants out of Abyan to help defeat militants in a country where tribal allegiances are key. Al Qaeda's Yemen branch has also sought to cement ties with local tribes.