Thursday, January 19, 2012

Yemen Says Gulf States Promise to Build Three Power Stations

By Mohammed Hatem - Jan 19, 2012

Gulf states promised to provide Yemen with power stations able to generate 450 megawatts of electricity to help with energy shortages in the Arab world’s poorest nation, Yemeni Electricity Minister Saleh Sumai said.

Three facilities will be set up in different regions and will be connected to national power stations, Sumai said in an interview with the army’s 26 September newspaper. There were also pledges to provide mobile power stations to cover provinces including Marib and Sanaa, Sumai said, adding that he expected an announcement to be made during a donor meeting on Yemen in Riyadh in March.

Yemen’s state-owned Public Electricity Corporation operates an estimated 57 percent of the country’s electricity-generating capacity of about 1,200 megawatts as well as the national power grid, according to the Electricity Ministry.

The gas-powered Marib station, which began operating in 2010, was closed down after attacks by tribesmen that continue and which, Sumai said, are politically motivated. He didn’t elaborate.

Tribesmen target internet cables to press demands

Thursday, Jan 19, 2012

Gulf News

Sana’a: Yemen’s rebellious armed men have found a new tactic to squeeze more concessions from the troubled central government. It is by sabotaging internet cables that pass through different territories.

Internet connections in three Yemen provinces have been almost brought to halt for three weeks when tribesmen targeted cables, an engineer from Yemennet, the internet provider in Yemen, told Gulf News.

“The tribesmen destroyed the international internet cable and set up their tent near the damaged [cable], vowing to stay put until the government responds to their demand.”

The tribesmen in many restive provinces resort to blowing up oil and gas pipelines, electricity cables and blockade roads to force the government to bow to their demands of either releasing their convicted tribesmen or giving them jobs.

The most significant disruption of fuel flowing from the central troubled province of Mareb occurred in May 2010 when a suspected American drone targeted a local government official and member of the influential Al Shbawan tribe.


The death of Jaber Al Shabwani, who was on clandestine dawn mission to convince Al Qaida militants to surrender, sparked angry reaction from his tribe who attacked security camps and sabotaged an oil pipeline.

As the government did not reveal the killer of their tribesman, armed men sporadically targeted oil supplies in the province. This week the Yemeni ministry of oil said that the tribal banditry has hugely affected the country’s oil industry and the government is unable to meet the country’s soaring demands for cooking gas. According to a website of the ministry of defence the country pay $20 million (Dh73.4 million) to import cooking gas to make up for the loss in local production and the government is on the verge of running out of funds to import more cooking gas.

The road between Sana’a and the western port province of Hodeida was blocked by an influential constructor who demanded millions of Yemeni Riyals in delayed payments from the government.


Observers in Yemen think that local tribes are exploiting the turbulence in the country to hold the government ransom and force it to make more concessions. Others think that these tribes are just puppets for many parties to weaken the government.

“Many parties are launching a counter-revolution to prove that there is no difference between [the] opposition government or the former ruling parties. Also they want to discredit the revolution’s image as to tell people the youth revolution did only bring destruction and instability,” said Ahmad Aydth, the editor of Marebpress, a news website.

The tribesmen destroyed the international internet cable and set up their tent near the damaged [cable], vowing to stay put until the government respond to their demand.”

AL-Qaida says to retreat from Yemeni town if gov't releases 400 terrorists

19th January 2012

Al-Qaida militants who have recently overrun the town of Radda proposed to the Yemeni government the release of 400 jailed operatives in return for the group's withdrawal. Such domestic insecurity aroused fears in the government and the media over the collapse of a Gulf-brokered power transfer deal.

Tariq al-Dhahab, the commander of the al-Qaida militants in Radda in al-Bayda province, some 130 km southeast of the capital Sanaa, told the tribal mediators that his group would retreat from the town if the transitional government sets free 400 al-Qaida convicts imprisoned in Sanaa, a government official told Xinhua on Wednesday.

"They also demanded the court to introduce the Sharia Islamic Law in the town," the official said on condition of anonymity.

An official of the Yemeni intelligence Political Security Agency told Xinhua "nearly all al-Qaida prisoners in south and southeast Yemen were rescued over the past months by their fellows, like what happened in provinces of Aden, Shabwa and Lahj. Or the prisoners broke out on their own by digging tunnels, like what happened in Mukalla on June, 22, 2011."

But in Sanaa, there is still a large number of al-Qaida operatives held in prison, said the intelligence official, who asked to remain anonymous.

Al-Qaida's demand was immediately rejected by the government and intelligence officials in Sanaa. "The government will not agree to the demand of the terrorists of releasing their jailed operatives," according to a brief statement by a senior official of the Yemeni government.

In response, the Yemeni government ordered the al-Bayda-based Republican Guard 26th Mechanized Brigade and security forces to be on high alert and wait for orders to raid Radda in case that the terrorists refuse to withdraw or surrender, according to military and security officials.

Local tribesmen also vowed to stand with the army in fighting al-Qaida militants.

On Sunday, Radda, a town of nearly 60,000 people, fell into the hands of some 1000 militants of the regional wing of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) led by al-Dhahab.

Al-Dhahab is a relative of the Yemeni-born U.S.-slain cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He hosted Awlaki for months before the radical cleric was killed by unmanned drone last September, according to a source close to al-Qaida group.

The takeover of Radda, which came after AQAP took full control of a series of swaths and cities in restive north, south and southeast Yemen, raised fears among Yemeni officials over the collapse of a Gulf-brokered power transfer deal.

The head of the parliamentary ruling bloc, Sultan al-Barakani, told Xinhua on Wednesday that "the recent security deterioration and al-Qaida threats may hinder the transitional government from securing the presidential elections scheduled for Feb. 21."

Barakani made the statement upon his departure of the parliament, where the lawmakers failed again to debate an immunity law for outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal.

The GCC deal was signed by Saleh and his opponents in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 23, 2011. Under the deal, Saleh's deputy Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi will be the sole candidate for the presidential elections.

Barakani said the session for debating the draft law was postponed to Jan. 23, blaming the absence of Prime Minister Mohamed Basindwa and ministers of justice and legal affairs.

Barakani's remarks came a day after Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qerbi said that al-Qaida's grip on Radda could delay the planned presidential elections. Such statement angered the opposition leaders who blamed "Saleh's aides of handing over Radda to the terrorists."

Al-Bayda province, where Radda is located, is the ancestral home of AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, who was Osama bin Laden's personal secretary in Afghanistan. He escaped along with about 24 others from Sanaa's intelligence prison in 2006 and formed the most dangerous regional terrorist network of al-Qaida militants in the Arabian Peninsula.

Source: GNA

Yemen amends immunity law, Saleh still protected

By Mohammed Ghobari

Thu Jan 19, 2012

SANAA (Reuters) - A Yemeni draft law granting immunity to the outgoing president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, from prosecution over the killing of protesters was amended on Thursday to limit the protection his aides would enjoy, a minister said.

The draft law, which has been heavily criticized by rights groups, the United Nations and Yemeni protesters, will now shield the aides only in "political cases," Legal Affairs Minister Mohammad Makhlafi told Reuters.

It had previously offered blanket immunity to associates of Saleh, who will still get full protection himself, Makhlafi said, without elaborating on what kinds of cases could be tried.

Under a power transfer plan hammered out by Yemen's wealthier Gulf neighbors and signed by Saleh in November, the veteran leader was promised legal immunity to help ease him out of office and end months of protests against his 33-year rule.

Rights groups say hundreds of protesters were killed by security forces in the uprising, which was punctuated by bursts of street fighting between Saleh loyalists and their foes.

Yemenis angry at the draft law are still taking to the streets calling for Saleh to be put on trial and U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay earlier this month warned the immunity offer could violate international law.

Discussion of the law in parliament has repeatedly been put off, but Makhlafi said it would now take place on Saturday.

The United States has defended the draft law as the only way to coax Saleh from power, but question remain over his intentions after he reversed a pledge to leave Yemen before presidential elections in February.

Washington and neighboring oil giant Saudi Arabia are keen for the plan to work, fearing protracted political upheaval will let al Qaeda's regional Yemen-based wing establish a foothold along oil shipping routes through the Red Sea.

Islamist militants this week seized the town of Radda, about 170 km (100 miles) southeast of the capital Sanaa, underscoring those concerns.

A tribesman negotiating with the militants on behalf of the government said their leader, Tareq al-Dahab, had refused to withdraw unless a council was set up to run the town according to Islamic law and 15 prisoners suspected of links to al Qaeda were released, including his brother Nabil.

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.

The tribesman, Sheikh Saleh al-Jawfi, said Islamism fighters from Abyan and Shabwa provinces had made their way to Radda to join militant ranks, adding that armed tribesmen were taking up positions in another part of the town.

Saleh's opponents have accused him of deliberately ceding territory to Islamists to prove his argument that only he stands in the way of an al Qaeda takeover in Yemen, from where the global militant network has previously launched abortive attacks.

PM's office denies Reuters reports on calling on President to leave

SANA'A, Jan. 19 (Saba) - An official source at the Prime Minister's office denied on Thursday reports of Reuters that he had called on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave the country before holding the early presidential elections on February 21.

He said that Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa answered a question of Reuters's correspondent about the President's travel to the United States or not, saying "What is being reported that the President will travel to the U.S.".

The source urged Reuters to seek accuracy in reporting and to translate literally the content of the Premier's answer.