Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Four Russians fall victims to war in Yemen

Sana'a, December 21, 2011- Four Russian citizens have been killed in Yemen. Armed clashes between the government troops and the opposition continue in this country for months. The unrest started in February, when opposition activists demanded former President Ali Saleh should be put on trial.
Foreign Ministry has officially confirmed the news about the death of four Russian citizens in Yemen. The Russians arrived in the country for religious purposes. The group was rather large: there were tens of people in it.
The group of Russian citizens is staying in Yemen's Saadah province. The people study at Dar al-Hadith religious center, in the town of Dammaj. According to the information from the Russian embassy in Sanaa, there are 36 people in the group. They are students and their family members, including children. The students arrived in Yemen illegally, bypassing the rules of departure from the Russian Federation. They maintained no contacts either with the Russian embassy or the Consulate Office," the message posted on the official website of the Foreign Ministry said.
The town of Dammaj found itself in the area of combat actions between the government troops and the gunmen of al-Husi, a Shiite tribal confederation. Local Sunni fundamentalists also struggle against the Shiite radicals. They own the religious center, where the above-mentioned Russians study. For the time being, the deaths of approximately 60 Sunni radicals have been confirmed. The Russian citizens were among them.
"The Russian Embassy continues to establish contacts with representatives of Yemeni authorities to identify the fates of the Russian citizens and provide assistance to them in leaving the troubled zone. The administrations of the ministries for foreign and internal affairs of Yemen have taken the question under control. We are also in contact with the International Red Cross Committee in this country - the organization has humanitarian access to various districts of Saadah province.
Diplomats previously warned Russian citizens against tours to Yemen. "The Foreign Ministry would like to remind Russian citizens that we strongly recommend not to visit this country," RIA Novosti quoted Alexander Lukashevich, an official spokesman for the ministry, as saying.
The combat activity started in Yemen in the forefront of the "Arab spring" in the beginning of 2011. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down on November 23, after 30 years of rule. It was then said that Saleh would travel to the USA for medical treatment. However, the former leader has not received the permission from the US authorities for that. The USA reportedly denied Saleh the visa in the beginning of December, although it was then said that the question had not been discussed yet.
Sources at the US State Department say that the ex-president of Yemen will most likely receive the visa. Afterwards, after the course of medical treatment in the States, Ali Saleh will be able to move to Germany, Yemen Fox said with reference to Akhbar-Al-Yom.
Nowadays, Yemen is ruled by the interim government under the chairmanship of the new Prime Minister, Mohammed Basindwa. Basindwa headed the Foreign Ministry of Yemen during the 1990s.
Russia welcomed the establishment of the new government of Yemen, which was supposed to conduct the general elections in Yemen on February 21, 2012.

US Man Convicted of Conspiring to Help Al-Qaida

December 21, 2011
Associated Press|by Laura Crimaldi
BOSTON -- A man who grew up in the Boston suburbs was convicted Tuesday of conspiring to help al-Qaida and plotting to kill U.S. Soldiers in Iraq after a two-month trial in which jurors heard references to Osama bin Laden and saw dramatic images from the Sept. 11 attacks.
The federal jury deliberated about 10 hours over three days before finding Tarek Mehanna, 29, guilty of four terror-related charges and three charges of lying to authorities. He faces life in prison, though his attorneys plan to appeal.
"The heart of the case is really this: Did Mr. Mehanna conspire to support terrorists, conspire to kill in a foreign country and then did he lie to federal investigators?" said Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. "Today a jury of his peers concluded that he did that."
Ortiz said the references to bin Laden and 9/11 were relevant and not inflammatory, but defense attorneys said they made it impossible for their client to get a fair trial.
"This is one the most cynical government cases I've ever seen tried," said defense attorney Janice Bassil. "Picture after picture just wanting to scare the jury. Deal after deal to government witnesses. All those government witnesses did way more than Tarek Mehanna."
Prosecutors said Mehanna and two friends conspired to travel to Yemen so they could receive training at a terrorism camp and eventually go on to Iraq to fight and kill U.S. Soldiers there.
When the men were unable to find such a training camp, Mehanna returned home and began to see himself as part of the al-Qaida "media wing," translating materials promoting violent jihad and distributing them over the Internet, prosecutors said.
One of the men, Kareem Abu-zahra, testified under a grant of immunity. A third man, Ahmad Abousamra, was also charged. Prosecutors say they believe Abousamra is in Syria.
One observer said he was surprised Mehanna was convicted of all counts. Boston College Law School professor George Brown said he wasn't convinced prosecutors proved Mehanna was taking orders from a terrorist organization.
"I think the jury overall had formed an unfavorable impression of Mehanna and when his credibility was on the line like that they were not about to find in his favor," he said.
Mehanna, who was born in the U.S. and raised in the Boston suburbs, will be sentenced April 12. His mother, Souad Mehanna, sobbed after the verdict was read and was consoled by her younger son, Tamer. Mehanna's lawyers also wept.
Mehanna's father, Ahmed, a professor at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, said he was stunned by the verdict.
"I can't even think," he said. "It was political."
Andrew March, a Yale University professor who testified for the defense as an expert witness, said the verdict sends the message to Muslim-Americans that they do not have free speech.
"I do what he did almost every single day at Yale University. I teach Islamic law, I study Islamic law. I translate things about al-Qaida. I teach people to debate," March said. "Because I'm not a Muslim and because of what my name is, I have no problem doing it. But if my name were Tarek Mehanna, I would have everything being tapped, and that should worry every single one of us."
During the trial, which started in October, Mehanna's attorneys portrayed him as an aspiring scholar of Islam who traveled to Yemen to look for religious schools, not to get terrorist training. They said his translation and distribution of controversial publications was free speech protected by the First Amendment.
Prosecutors focused on hundreds of online chats on Mehanna's computer in which they said he and his friends talked about their desire to participate in jihad, or holy war. Several of those friends were called by prosecutors to testify against Mehanna, including one man who said he, Mehanna and a third friend tried to get terrorism training in Yemen so they could fight American Soldiers in Iraq.
Mehanna's lawyers told jurors prosecutors were using scare tactics by portraying Mehanna as a would-be terrorist and were trying to punish him for his beliefs.
The defense built its case on the testimony of a half-dozen terrorism experts. Mehanna did not testify.
His lawyers acknowledged that Mehanna expressed admiration for Osama bin Laden but said he disagreed with bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders about many things, including the use of suicide bombers and the killing of civilians.
Jurors began deliberating Friday. In his instructions, U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. told them that in order to find Mehanna guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida, they must find that he worked "in coordination with or at the direction of" the terrorist organization. He said independent advocacy on behalf of the organization was not a violation of the law.

LEAD: Yemen clashes with al-Qaeda suspects leave 14 dead

Dec 21, 2011
Sana'a (dpa) - At least 14 people were killed in clashes between al-Qaeda-linked fighters and Yemeni government forces in the southern province of Abyan, military officials said Wednesday.
The fighting erupted when militants suspected of having links to al-Qaeda attacked military units on the outskirts of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan, killing four soldiers, a military official said, adding that 10 gunmen were also killed.
The opposition has accused the Yemeni government of allowing militants to control Zinjibar to justify a military offensive there and divert international attention from protests demanding that former president Ali Abdullah Saleh stand trial.
A Gulf-brokered power transfer deal last month granted Saleh immunity from legal prosecution in return for stepping down and handing over power to his deputy.
In a separate incident, a senior Yemeni security officer was killed by unknown gunmen in the southern province of Lahj, the Yemeni website Rai News reported.
Gunmen riding a motorbike shot Colonel Mahmoud Saleh as he was getting into his car late Tuesday, the report said.

Russia: 60 Islamic radicals killed in Yemen

The Associated Press
Sana'a, December 21, 2011-The Russian Foreign Ministry says 60 Islamic radicals, including four Russian citizens, have been killed in clashes in northern Yemen.
The ministry said they died in fighting between ultraconservative Salafis and Hawthi Shiites that has been going on in the province of Saada since mid-November.
The Russian Embassy in Yemen counted 36 Russian citizens living in Saada — students at the Salafi-run Dar al-Hadith school for Islamic studies and their families.
"According to the information received, 60 radicals were killed, including four Russian citizens," the ministry statement said.
Dar al-Hadith, in the city of Dammaj, has long been a popular destination for foreign students. The Russian Embassy said the Russian students are there illegally, having bypassed regulations for leaving Russia.