Saturday, January 21, 2012

Four killed in Qaeda clash in Yemen

January 21, 2012

Four people including an Al-Qaeda militant were killed on Saturday in clashes in the central Yemeni town of Rada, which a large force of extremists seized less than a week ago, a tribal dignitary said.

Witnesses said a firefight erupted when dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters used machineguns and shells to attack a house in the town center, sparking return fire from residents.

"Four people, including an Al-Qaeda man, were killed," the tribal official told AFP.

The clash came following the failure on Friday of a third round of tribal mediation since the town was seized overnight on January 22.

The same official said mediators had been unable to negotiate a retreat from the town of the insurgents because their leader, Tareq al-Dahab, refused to change his demands, the main one being that Rada become an "Islamic emirate."

On Friday, an Al-Qaeda fighter was also killed by Rada residents who had formed vigilante committees to defend their areas.

The militants met little resistance from security forces when they moved into Rada last Sunday night.

Several sources in the town said more than 1,000 Al-Qaeda gunmen invaded Rada, which is within striking distance of a strategic highway connecting Sanaa with the South and southwest.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has sought to capitalize on a year of deadly dissent against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and has consolidated its presence in several areas of the south and east.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants already control a string of towns in Abyan, Shabwa and Marib provinces, but Rada is the closest they have come to the capital.

The strong jihadist presence in Yemen made Saleh a key ally in Washington's "war on terror" before the Arab spring uprisings sparked a wave of protests against his regime that he countered with deadly violence.

Yemeni parliament limits sweeping immunity law

Sunday Jan 21, 2012

Yemen's parliament approved a law that it said would limit immunity for officials who worked under President Ali Abdullah Saleh to "political" crimes they committed in an official capacity.

Immunity for Saleh and his allies was a key part of a November power deal brokered by Yemen's powerful Gulf neighbors, under which he is to step down.

But the extent of that immunity has been a contentious issue in Yemen, which has been in a state of turmoil for over a year, with numerous factions demanding that he leave office.

Hundreds have been killed in government crackdowns on demonstrators.

A new wave of protests broke out earlier last week when it emerged that the draft law applied to all crimes by all members of Saleh's government during his entire 33-year reign.

Responding to the public outcry, Yemen's vice president, opposition parties and members of Saleh's party agreed to limit the sweeping immunity.

The statement offered "immunity from criminal prosecution for those who worked for the president in the security, military or civil capacity in connection with politically-motivated acts."

It said that the immunity does not apply if there was proof of any "acts of terrorism."

Saleh himself would still enjoy complete immunity, the statement said.

The president has not yet stepped down, despite having signed the November deal to do so.

Al-Qaeda to hold press conference in South Yemen

Sana'a, January 21, 2012- Ansar Al-Sharia, a group affiliated to al-Qaeda, announced Friday it would hold a press conference in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan.

The terrorist group invited all internal and international news agencies to attend the conference set to take place today.

Al-Qaeda did not; however, reveal what sort of announcements will be made at the conference. But some sources asserted it would clarify what's going on in the province and its position regarding the return of refugees to their homes.

Ansar Al-Sharia has been involved in fierce battles with security force since May when it took over Zinjubar, the provincial capital of Abyan, leaving hundreds killed of the two sides and displacing tens of thousands.

It's noteworthy that this move is the first of its kind for the al-Qaeda affiliated group.

Cooperation between Yemen and US on terrorism has been disrupted due to the unrest storming the country since February, when thousands of Yemenis took to streets demanding an end to authoritarian rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Source: Yemen Post

Yemen officials say Saleh to depart for Oman, then US for medical reasons

January 21, 2012

By Associated Press,

SANAA, Yemen — Outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh will leave soon to Oman, en route to medical treatment in the United States, Yemeni officials said on Saturday, part of an American effort to get the embattled strongman out of the country to allow a peaceful transition from his rule.

Washington has been trying for weeks to find a country where Saleh can live in exile, since it does not want him to settle permanently in the United States. The mercurial president, who has ruled for more than 33 years, has repeatedly gone back and forth on whether he would leave.

The officials’ comments Saturday suggested Oman, Yemen’s neighbor, could be a potential home for him. Three officials said he would go, but they were divided on whether he would remain in exile in Oman or return to Yemen after treatment. His return, even if he no longer holds the post of president, could mean continued turmoil for the impoverished nation at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

After nearly a year of protests demanding his ouster, Saleh in November handed his powers over to his vice president and agreed to step down. A unity government between his party and the opposition has since been created. However, Saleh — still formally the president — has continued to influence politics from behind the scenes through his family and loyalists in power positions.

The U.S. does not want to take him in, concerned it would be seen by Yemenis as harboring a leader they say has blood on his hands for the killings of protesters. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates already have rejected Saleh, American officials said.

Senior ruling party figure Mohammed al-Shayef told The Associated Press that Saleh would travel “in the coming days” to Oman, then head to the United States for treatment of wounds he suffered in an June assassination attempt.

After treatment, Saleh would return to Yemen to head his People’s Congress Party, said al-Shayef, who is also a prominent tribal leader. Another top party official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk of the plans, gave the same itinerary, though he said Saleh would pass through Ethiopia en route from Oman to the U.S.

Saleh himself has spoken in recent weeks of working as an opposition politician after he leaves the presidency.

However, an official in the prime minister’s office said Saleh “is supposed” to return to Oman to stay after his U.S. treatment is completed.

The official said Saleh’s powerful son Ahmed was currently in Oman, arranging a residence for his father. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk the press. It did not seem that Ahmed, who commands the elite Republican Guard that has been at the forefront of the crackdown on protests, would remain in Oman.

The unity government has been struggling to establish its authority in the face of Saleh’s continuing strength in the country. Like Saleh’s son Ahmed, Saleh’s nephew also commands one of Yemen’s best trained and equipped security forces, and the president’s loyalists remain in place in the government and bureaucracy.

Saleh agreed to step down under a U.S.-approved and Gulf-mediated accord with the opposition in return for immunity for prosecution.

Yemen’s parliament on Saturday approved the immunity law, a key step toward Saleh’s formal retirement from his post.

The law grants Saleh complete immunity for any crimes committed during his rule, including the killing of protesters during the uprising against his regime. However parliament limited to scope of immunity for other officials in regime.

Initially, the law would have similarly given complete immunity to everyone who served Saleh’s governments throughout his rule, sparking a public outcry and a new wave of protests. In response, the law was changed to grant them immunity only on “politically motivated” criminal acts. That apparently would not cover corruption charges.

Most protesters have rejected the accord entirely, saying Saleh should not be given immunity and demanding he be prosecuted.

Immunity deal angers protesters


January 21, 2012

Sana'a, THE Yemeni parliament has adopted a law giving veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution.

THe new legislation is part of a Gulf-brokered transition deal in return for Mr Saleh stepping down from office.

The law adopted yesterday gives Mr Saleh, in power since 1978, "complete" immunity and also offers partial protection from legal action to his aides.

The final text says Mr Saleh's lieutenants cannot face prosecution for "actions that were politically motivated and carried out in the exercise of their duties", but specifies that the amnesty "does not apply to acts of terrorism".

The transitional government of national unity, which is led by the parliamentary opposition, had submitted 11th-hour amendments on Friday reducing the scope of the amnesty offered to the president's aides following a public outcry.

The immunity pledge, which was a key element of the hard-won Gulf deal that Mr Saleh signed in November, has been strongly criticised by Western human rights groups and the United Nations.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said earlier this month that anyone who had committed abuses during the mass protests in Yemen that erupted in January last year must not be allowed to evade justice.

Pillay urged decision-makers in Yemen to respect the prohibition in international law against amnesties for gross human rights violations.

Leaders of the protest movement have also kept up demonstrations against the immunity pledge demanding that Mr Saleh and his cohorts be put on trial.

Parliament also adopted a law approving Mr Saleh's longtime deputy, Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, as consensus candidate in the election for his successor, which is due to be held on February 21.

There had been speculation that mounting violence in the south and east between the army and al-Qaida linked militants might trigger a delay to the poll.

But a senior official of Mr Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) party, Sultan al-Barakani, insisted on Wednesday that the vote would be held on time.

The Gulf-brokered transition agreement foresees that Mr Hadi will be the sole candidate but his nomination has been strongly criticised by the protest movement because of his close links with Mr Saleh.

Mr Barakani said that, ahead of the election, the veteran president, who remains in office on an honourary basis, would travel abroad.

"In the coming days, he will visit the sultanate of Oman and then Ethiopia before travelling to New York for treatment" for wounds he sustained in a bombing at the presidential palace last June, the GPC official said.

"Once he has completed his treatment in New York, he will return to Yemen to continue to leading the party."

Late last month, Mr Saleh announced his intention to visit the United States "in order to create favourable conditions ... for the presidential election."

But a senior official declared shortly afterwards that the trip had been cancelled following a request from his ruling party that he remain in Yemen until after the vote.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticised Mr Saleh's failure to go abroad, saying that he had given an undertaking to do so.

"We regret that the president has yet failed to comply with his own commitment to leave the country and to permit elections," she said.

"There has been agreement with respect to the way forward that has not been fulfilled."