Sunday, January 15, 2012

25 dead as Shia rebels, tribesmen clash in Yemen

January 15, 2012

SANAA - Twenty-five gunmen have been killed in three days of fighting between tribesmen and Shiite rebels in Yemen’s troubled north, an official said on Sunday.

The clashes flared Friday in the province of Hajja, just a day after 20 other gunmen were killed in fighting between Sunni Salafists and Zaidi Shiite rebels in a separate northern town, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Tribes involved in the latest fighting, which took place in Hajja’s Wadi Misyar region, are aligned with the Sunni fundamentalists that have for months been battling Shiites in the country’s north, the official added.

Fighting between Sunni fundamentalists and Huthi rebels has also raged in the northern town of Dammaj, where a Salafist Islamic teaching school was besieged by the Shiite rebels.

At least 71 people were been killed in clashes that erupted in mid-October, a spokesman for the Dar al-Hadith school said in late December.

In 2004, Zaidi Shiites, who regularly complain of inequality and marginalisation by the central government, rebelled against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime. Thousands of Yemenis were killed before a ceasefire was declared in February 2010.

Mohammed bin Rashid receives Yemeni PM

January 15, 2012

DUBAI - Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum received at his Zabeel Palace this evening Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Saleh Basendwa and his accompanying delegation.

Shaeikh Mohammed and Basendwa discussed during their meeting bilateral relations and ways to enhance them. They also reviewed latest developments in Yemen, following success of the GCC-brokered initiative which led to an amicable agreement among all parties to hold parliamentary elections next month.

The Yemeni Prime Minister praised the GCC countries’ efforts and underlined UAE’s “positive and proactive role” in the successful reconciliation endeavours.

He also expressed Yemen’sgratitude to the UAE for continuous support to the Yemeni people and for contribution in the economic and social development projects there.

Sheikh Mohammed reaffirmed UAE’s stand beside Yemen and, as well as support to its security and stability.

The meeting was attended by Dubai Crown Prince Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Deputy Ruler Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Speaker of the Federal National Council Mohammed Ahmed Al Murr, Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority & President of the Emirates Airlines Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Shaikhs, senior officials and diplomats.

Qaeda militants seize Yemen town, Norwegian kidnapped

January 15, 2012

*Militants take over Radda town with little resistance

* Tribesmen kidnap Norwegian U.N. employee in Yemen

SANAA, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Al Qaeda militants have seized a small town southeast of Yemen's capital Sanaa on Sunday in another setback to efforts to restore order after President Ali Abdullah Saleh formally handed over power following almost a year of mass protests against his rule.

A police source and witnesses said the militants met little resistance from a small police force when they entered the town of Radda in al-Baydah province, 170 km (105 miles) from Sanaa, on Saturday night, seizing an ancient citadel and mosque.

The capture of Radda expanded al Qaeda control outside the southern province of Abyan, where they have taken over several towns since the uprising against Saleh began.

Saleh signed a deal brokered by Yemen's Gulf neighbours in November under which he shifted formal power to his deputy. But he has not yet left the country and continues to wield a great deal of power through relatives' control of security forces.

"I call again on President Saleh to abide by the terms of the agreement," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in Beirut during a Middle East visit, noting that a U.N. mediator had been "at the heart of negotiations" with Saleh.

The anti-Saleh unrest has emboldened groups linked to al Qaeda's Yemen-based regional wing, which the United States has called the most dangerous branch of the militant network.

The United States and Saudi Arabia, the world's No. 1 oil exporter, are keen for the Gulf-backed power transfer deal to work, fearing that a vacuum in Yemen may give al Qaeda space to thrive near key oil and cargo shipping lanes in the Red Sea.


Underscoring the continued lawlessness in Yemen, a Norwegian working for the United Nations was kidnapped in Sanaa at the weekend, Norway's foreign ministry said.

A tribal source said the Norwegian was abducted by tribesmen from oil-producing Maarib province demanding the release of a suspect accused of killing two members of the security forces.

Residents in Radda, which has a population of 60,000, said the militants who took over the town were led by Tareq al-Dahab, who had been handed over by Syria to Yemen recently after being detained while trying to slip into Iraq.

Dahab is a brother-in-law of a U.S.-born, Yemen-based Muslim cleric linked to al Qaeda killed in an air strike last year.

Yahia Abu Usba, deputy head of the Yemeni Socialist Party and a Saleh critic, said security forces appeared to have done little to prevent militants entering Radda. He said al Qaeda would target Maarib Province next, bringing it closer to Sanaa.

Yemeni officials were not immediately available for comment.

The United States and Saudi Arabia backed Saleh through much of his autocratic 33-year rule, fearing that any vacuum would be exploited by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, based in Yemen. As street protests intensified against Saleh, however, they endorsed the Gulf-brokered deal for Saleh to step down.

Under the plan, the opposition and the ruling General People's Congress party (GPC) shared out cabinet posts between them, forming a unity government to steer the country towards presidential elections in February.

But little headway towards reinstating order on the ground has been made since then.

In Sanaa on Saturday, a 48-hour deadline given to armed opponents and supporters of Saleh to withdraw after months of street fighting passed but there was little change in the armed face-off, according to residents.

Fighting against Islamist militants in the south has continued, forcing about 97,000 people to flee. More than 300,000 others have been displaced by tribal rebellion in north Yemen, according to U.N. estimates.

Norwegian kidnapped in Yemen

15th January 2012

A gang has abducted a 34-year-old Norwegian man in the Yemen capital of Sana, local media report.

The kidnapping may have been the responsibility of a tribe called Hariq Akdam who wants one of their members released.

“I do not know where and when this happened, we are working on getting more details. It’s the United Nations are dealing with the kidnapping,” Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Frode Overland Andersen said to NRK, Sunday.

The man works for the UN’s Development Programme, and the UN reported his kidnapping.

His abductors were in phone contact with the UN’s offices in Yemen on Sunday morning. An anomymous source told AFP the man has been taken to Marib in the east of the country.

“The Foreign Ministry is prepare to assist the United Nations if they need it. We are in close contact with the United Nations in the further handling of the case,” added Mr Andersen.