Wednesday, January 18, 2012

UN envoy stresses keenness on ending crisis in Yemen

SANA'A, Jan. 18 (Saba) - The UN secretary general's envoy to Yemen Jamal Bin Omar stressed Wednesday the UN's keenness on succeeding the political process and ending the crisis in Yemen.

During his meeting with Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, Bin Omar briefed al-Qirbi on the outcomes of his meetings with some of the political parties in the country.

He praised the steps taken so far to implement the Gulf initiative and the UN Security Council resolution 2014.

For his part, al-Qirbi valued highly the UN efforts to ensure the initiative's implementation as well as the country's security and stability, stressing the government's determination to advance the political process and overcome any obstacle may hinder holding the early presidential elections on time, on February 21.

Former CIA official: Al-Qaeda in Yemen still nimble

By Jason Ukman

The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki was believed to have been a major blow to the propaganda efforts of al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. But when it comes to his death’s impact on the ability of the group to carry out attacks, the picture remains as cloudy as it was when Awlaki was killed nearly four months ago.

It has been more than a year since the disruption of the last known terrorist plot by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – an attempt to bring down two cargo jets over the United States with package bombs. It has more than two years since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, reportedly trained by AQAP, attempted to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner.

What’s more, AQAP has been most active recently advancing its regional ambitions, not threatening attacks on U.S. soil.

Still, there are at least three key reasons to remain concerned about the persistent threat posed by AQAP, according to John McLaughlin, who was deputy CIA director from 2000 to 2004 and, briefly, the agency’s acting director.

The reasons, in short: speed, simplicity and strategy.

“Their operation that sent Abdulmutallab here in December of 2009 was something -- it was a pick-up game. It took about a month to get that thing going,” McLaughlin said Tuesday during an event on homeland security at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “They’re cheap: The package-bomb operation, by their own estimate, cost them about $4,200. And they have a strategy, which is a thousand cuts. So, basically, attack us where they can.”

There are also growing worries that AQAP is providing fighters and weaponry to other al-Qaeda affiliates, particularly al-Shabab in Somalia. Awlaki’s death has done little to allay those concerns, terrorism experts say, even though al-Shabab is still mainly regarded as a regional threat.

U.S. officials may have branded Awlaki as AQAP’s “chief of external operations” after his death. But McLaughlin said his loss has not “had a big impact on them operationally.”

The impact on AQAP’s propaganda efforts might be easier to measure. No one from AQAP’s ranks has been able to replace Awlaki as a messenger for the group. The last issue of the group’s online magazine, Inspire – believed to be largely the product of Samir Khan, the American killed alongside Awlaki in the U.S. drone strike – came out in September.

“I’m not sure how much AQAP will continue to be interested in a glitzy English-language Web journal,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and terrorism expert, told The Post back in October. “But it’s still going to be interested in attacking the United States.”

Yemen Islamists say to quit town if prisoners freed

Wed Jan 18, 2012
SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni Islamist fighters who seized a small town southeast of the capital Sanaa this week have said they will withdraw if several comrades are released from jail, tribal sources said on Wednesday.
Yemeni tribesmen negotiating with the militants on behalf of the government said Tareq al-Dahab, leader of the group that took over Radda about 170 km (105 miles) southeast of Sanaa, agreed to go if his brother Nabil and several others were freed.
Dahab is related to Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen whom Washington accused of a leadership role in the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda, and assassinated in a drone strike last year.
Radda's capture underscored U.S. fears that political turmoil in Yemen over the fate of President Ali Abdullah Saleh will give al Qaeda a foothold near shipping routes through the Red Sea and may spread to world No. 1 oil exporter Saudi Arabia.
Dozens of militants entered Radda on Sunday, expanding militant control outside the southern province of Abyan, where they have captured several towns since an uprising against Saleh began early last year.
Residents of Radda said the streets were empty and shops stayed shut on Wednesday.
Saleh formally handed over power to his deputy late last year, in line with a Gulf-brokered plan to end months of mass protests and bursts of open combat between his forces and those of a rebel general and tribal militias.
Under the deal hammered out by Yemen's wealthier neighbours, Saleh's General People's Congress and opposition parties divided up cabinet posts between them, forming a unity government to steer the country towards presidential elections in February.
But question marks remain over the intentions of the veteran leader, who recently said he would stay in Yemen, reversing a pledge to leave for the United States.
His opponents accuse him of ceding territory to Islamists to bolster his claim that his rule alone keeps al Qaeda from growing strong in Yemen, and ultimately aiming to retain power by sabotaging the transition deal.
Washington, which long backed Saleh as key to its "counter-terrorism" policy, endorses the transition plan. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that Saleh was failing to meet his pledges under the deal and that Washington was "focused on the threat posed by al Qaeda in Yemen".