Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Yemen arrests suspected Qaeda leader

 (AFP) July 31, 2012
SANAA — Yemeni security services have arrested a suspected Al-Qaeda leader, Abdulrahman al-Baihani, wanted for plotting "terrorist' attacks in the capital, state news agency Saba said Tuesday.
The suspect is "one of the most dangerous wanted Al-Qaeda elements and among the prominent leaders plotting to carry out acts of terrorism and sabotage in the capital," Saba quoted a high-ranking security official as saying.
Baihani, who was arrested on Monday, "took part in fighting armed forces in Abyan province" from which Al-Qaeda militants were ousted in June following deadly battles with Yemeni forces.
He also "brought children whom he sent to fight alongside Al-Qaeda in Abyan and Shabwa provinces," the official said.
Earlier in July, Yemen announced it has placed its security services on high alert to prevent "terrorist" attacks after it uncovered a plot to launch assaults against security and military checkpoints.
Al-Qaeda militants have carried out several deadly attacks against Yemeni security services since President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, who has repeatedly vowed to battle extremists, came to power this year.
In May, a Yemeni soldier detonated explosives packed under his uniform in the middle of an army battalion in the capital Sanaa, killing 96 troops and wounding around 300.
The Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, believed to be the global network's most effective and lethal franchise, had claimed responsibility for the attack.
And on July 11, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of a police academy in Sanaa, killing eight cadets and wounding several more. Officials had accused Al-Qaeda of carrying out the assault.
But the network has not claimed responsibility for this attack.

In hidden mountain villages, disabled ignored

30 July 2012
Muaad Al-Maqtari, the Yemen Times
The tribes of Al-Zuriaka exist in hidden villages within the Al-Makatara mountainous ridge in Lahij governorate, in south Yemen. There, unprecedented physical impairments exist, ones that remain largely unseen.
In Al-Azraka village in Zurikat Al-Sham, there is a small cottage where Sharifa Mahyoob, 75, lives with her three daughters. Her daughters grew up disabled.
The family’s story was documented by the Ma'an Foundation for development, which paid a visit to Al-Azraka to distribute food aid and to conduct statistical analyses on the disabled.
In a recorded document, Mahyoob said her eldest daughter, Katiba, 30, lost her vision much too soon in life, and her ordeal was exacerbated when she fell from a high place, fracturing her back and paralyzing half of her body. 
Jooz, Mahyoob’s middle daughter, has a similar story to Katiba's. She lost her sight as well, though she is five years younger. Mahyoob is afraid Jooz would face the same fate as Katiba.
Jawhara, 20, is the youngest and was exposed to a different impairment. Mahyoob said her daughter Jawahara was unable to endure the pain that her two sisters bore. She went mad knowing nothing of what is around her. This became particularly heightened following the death of her father six years ago.
These three daughters have an elder brother, 35, and younger brother, 18.  Mahyoob said the eldest son is blind and the younger one is mentally unstable.
Mahyoob alone is responsible for handling this plight. She is the sole source of income for the family, all tortured souls in a hollow cave that none remembers but death.
A multitude of handicaps 
Fatin, Sifyan and Syeon all suffer from rachitic and glaucoma.
Mansour Al-Asbahi, a Ma'an Foundation employee who visited them, said these three handicapped persons lack food, health care and a suitable residence.
The situation worsened when their father committed suicide and their mother died from grief.
Rachitic, an inflammation of the spine, is the biggest hindrance in this village.
Raseel Ali Saif, 22, and his brother Rafee, 20, suffer from rachitic as well. This led their father to flee to Aden 15 years ago. The mother died five years ago.
These two boys have nobody to help them but their grandmother, who said she does her best to care for them along with their sister, who continuously weeps for lack of food. Food support is seasonally delivered to them.
Amen Al-Masani, a pediatrician in Khalifa Hospital in Al-Turba, south Taiz, said hundreds of children in these villages suffer from impairments in relation to childhood, parenthood and nutritional diseases.
Al-Masani said he thought people in these villages were unable to face these problems, which triggers further suffering.
He said cases of impairment are increasing in the villages, calling for a medical study to detect the reason of the prevalent diseases in these villages.
Rahma Afeef, 8, was born with two interconnected heads. Al-Masani said the two heads do the same job. This child was not exposed to a qualified hospital test to diagnose the case.
Al-Masani said glaucoma, blood diseases and respiratory diseases threaten the lives of these village residents.
Abdu Al-Rakeeb Sweileh suffers from a psychological imbalance because of the daily hardships he encounters as he cares for his disabled child, Kabeel, who appears emaciated from the lack of food.
Mentally disabled and kept in caves
Documents from the Ma'an Foundation indicate that there are a large number of mentally unstable people in these villages. Poverty is the primary reason for psychological instability for those who have nobody to care for them; most only take one meal a day.
Nokta Mohammed Abdu, 29, and her siblings Abdu, Maleeka, Bushra and Shahd are mentally handicapped and homeless, residing in mountainous caves. Their mother, who used to help them subsist, lost her vision and is unable to help.
Some mentally disabled people are fastened with chains and kept in the mountainous caves. Locals said Azal Al-Maqtari used to have a clinic; handicapped flocked to receive medical help. Unfortunately, Al-Maqtari could not endure the situation of those disabled. She committed suicide, poisoning herself..
According to the foundation, there are approximately 800 cases of people suffering from a disability; the total number of the population is about 10,000.
Drought forms the major problem in these villages where drinking water is not safe.
The locals have no choice but to drink from this water; otherwise they would perish because of thirst.
Agricultural products are unavailable. According to Zaeem Al-Maqatari, the head of Ma'an Foundation, 70 percent of people in this village live only on one meal a day.

The locals prefer to emigrate in order to look for food, water and medicine. Because the capable leave the village, the villages become housing estates for the sick and the handicapped.
There is no medical organization that diagnoses their diseases and provides them with medications.
The population of Al-Makatara is estimated at 60,000; this means there is one doctor for every 1,416 families and one medical center for every 2,000 families.
Doctor’s assistants, nurses and medical guides don’t exceed 80 people working in 19 unqualified medical units.
The medical workers in these centers receive cases that cannot be diagnosed by doctors and psychologists; they have no medicine to offer.
Fadl Al-Asbahi, an employee in the field of education, said the rehabilitation of the disabled is scarcely available due to the absence of a specialized foundation.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Crude arrives at Yemen refinery after 9-month halt

July 30, 2012
(Reuters) - Yemen delivered its first oil shipment from the Maarib pipeline to its Aden refinery after a nine-month halt that left the poorest Arab country dependent on donations of fuel, an official from the refinery told Reuters.
"The first shipment of 85,000 tonnes has been delivered on Saturday night from the Maarib pipeline to the Aden refinery," the official said, declining to be named under briefing rules.
The pipeline was shut after attacks by tribesmen in 2011. Prior to the closure, it carried around 110,000 barrels per day of sweet, light crude to the Ras Isa export terminal on the Red Sea coast, operated by state-owned SAFER.
The closure of the pipeline forced Yemen's 150,000 bpd Aden refinery to shut, leaving the country more dependent on imports and on donations from Saudi Arabia. Repairs to the pipeline were completed and it resumed operating earlier in July.
"Our first priority is to send oil to the refinery...and then the government will start to think about exports," an official at SAFER said. He added that the first two or three shipments from Maarib would be sent to the Aden refinery.
The total volume of the first three shipments to the refinery is expected to be around 1.2 million tonnes of crude, a shipping source in Aden said.
Continued instability in the country, involving Islamic militants and disgruntled tribesmen, leaves oil and gas pipelines vulnerable to further attacks. Insurgents were emboldened by a decline in government control last year during protests that eventually ousted longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and seized several southern cities before being driven out this year.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Gunmen storm Yemen ministry, seize Italian

By Mohammed Ghobari
SANAA | Sun Jul 29, 2012
 (Reuters) - Gunmen kidnapped an Italian embassy security officer in Yemen on Sunday and some 100 armed tribesmen loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stormed the Interior Ministry, demanding to be enlisted in the police force, officials said.
A spokesman for the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome said a security officer who is a member of the country's Carabinieri military police had been seized in Yemen and that a crisis committee had been activated. The spokesman declined to give further details.
A security source in Yemen, who told Reuters the kidnap victim was a diplomat, said he had been near the Italian embassy when "men came by in a car and took him by force".
Earlier, tribesmen briefly held interior ministry employees hostage. They freed the ministry personnel a few hours later but continued to occupy the building, a ministry official said.
The incidents highlighted the continuing turmoil in Yemen despite a peace deal under which Saleh stood down after months of protests against his 33-year rule and was replaced in February by his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The ministry storming was a direct challenge to Hadi's authority. He is trying to restructure the armed forces and stabilize the impoverished Arab nation, where Saleh's legacy still looms large.
The Interior Ministry official said the tribesmen were Saleh loyalists, who were promised they would be enrolled in the police force in return for helping tackle last year's uprising. The promise has not been fulfilled.
"At midday, the armed tribesmen... stormed the ministry building, took control of it and climbed onto the roof with their guns," the official said. "They refuse to leave until their demands are met."
Tribesmen have fought alongside government troops in a U.S.-backed offensive against al Qaeda-linked militants that drove insurgents out of several towns in the south of the country last month. Many tribal fighters also sided with Saleh who was toppled by a popular uprising.
Disgruntled tribesmen often kidnap foreigners and bomb oil and gas pipelines as a way to press demands on authorities.
In April, officers and tribesmen loyal to Saleh forced Yemen's main airport to close for a day in protest at the sacking of the air force commander, a half-brother of Saleh.

Yemeni warplanes bomb two al-Qaida hideouts

July 29, 2012
ADEN, Yemen - Yemeni fighter jets bombed two al-Qaida hideouts in the southern province of Abyan on Saturday, a security official told Xinhua without giving the number of casualties in raids.
The air forces bombed two compounds belonging to the al-Qaida militants near Mahfad town in Abyan province, while they were preparing to launch a fresh assault at government soldiers patrolling the restive area, the security official said on condition of anonymity.
"It was not immediately clear if any of the al-Qaida militants or some of their local leaders were killed in the air strikes. The bombing was in response to Wednesday's al-Qaida attack on pro- government checkpoints," the official said.
A local resident told Xinhua anonymously that "huge black smokes and fire erupted in one of the targeted compounds after military aircrafts fired some rockets on it".
"An abandoned al-Qaida training site was also pounded in the air shelling," he added.
The Yemeni government forces have been fighting al-Qaida militants in the southern province of Abyan for years, and hundreds of soldiers have lost their lives.
In the past two months, a US-backed offensive managed to expel al-Qaida militants from their major strongholds in the southern province of Abyan, which they had controlled for nearly one year during the political unrest in Yemen.
However, the al-Qaida militants still have a strong presence in the Mahfad town and some mountainous areas in Abyan.
Fighting al-Qaida militants in the restive south is one of the challenges confronting current Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has promised to launch a national dialogue to settle disputes among all political factions and to uproot the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida.