Monday, January 23, 2012

Yemen air force mutinies spread to four bases

The Associated Press

Monday Jan. 23, 2012

SANAA, Yemen — A wave of mutinies demanding the ouster of Yemen's air force commander spread to four military air bases on Monday, officers said, a day after the nation's outgoing president departed the country.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh left his battered nation on his way to the U.S. for medical treatment after passing power to his deputy and asking for forgiveness for any "shortcomings" during his 33-year rein.

He has said he will return to Yemen, but the move appears to be putting pressure on Saleh's key allies like his half-brother Maj. Gen. Mohammed Saleh, commander of the air force.

Protests by Yemeni airmen demanding that Maj. Gen. Saleh step down started over the weekend and are now spreading across the country.

A senior officer in the Yemen's largest air base of Al Anad in the southern Lahj province, Abdul-Qader Sufian, said Monday that the troops at his base were demanding the general's removal

"No to injustice, no to dictatorship, no to corruption," one banner hanging on Al Anad's walls read.

Colonel Mohammed al-Qubati at the air base in the capital Sanaa says about 200 airmen were continuing a protest that they started Sunday. They had been pushed from the air base by loyalist troops but had moved into the city, and were protesting at the nearby residence of Vice-President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The officers said that the garrisons of two more bases, at Taiz in the south and at Hodeida in the west, were also protesting.

Yemenis fear that despite Saleh's departure, little change will take place in the country as his regime, family and tribal members are still holding powerful positions in the government and security apparatus.

After months of diplomatic pressure and mass protests calling for his ouster, Saleh signed a deal in November to transfer authority to his vice-president in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Since then, Saleh exercised power behind the scenes, sparking accusations he sought to scuttle the deal and cling to power.

Saleh absence to help Yemen transition, says US

AFP | Jan 23, 2012

WASHINGTON: The White House said on Monday the absence of President Ali Abdullah Saleh from Yemen while he has medical treatment in the United States would aid a political transition in the violence-wracked nation.

But White House spokesman Jay Carney denied Washington was seeking to influence events ahead of Yemen's election in February, saying his request was granted on purely medical grounds.

President Saleh speaks to Yemeni media


Sana'a, I am speaking to you over the Yemeni satellite TV stations on the latest developments. Yesterday, in the parliament, the immunity law was endorsed and Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi was unanimously nominated to assume the presidency until 2014, which is a positive achievement.

There seems to be misunderstanding over the immunity law, as some see that the first beneficiary of such a law is the president himself or his relatives. This is untrue and a deep misunderstanding.

The beneficiary of this law issued in line with the Gulf initiative - which we appreciate - are all those who worked side-by-side with the president during 33 years, whether in civilian, military, or security state institutions.

Mistakes were committed, but they were not intentional, as the president enjoys an immunity inspired from his own people. The president spent all his life serving the country. He has not been seeking glory or coveting high-rank positions. He only sought to serve this country

My ambition was to offer myself and offer services for the sake of the country. Services have been provided indeed in the fields of development, national infrastructure, and oil, gas, and metal prospection.

On top of these services lies the most prominent achievement in Ali Abdullah Saleh life: the restoration of Yemen's unity on 22 May 1990, which I view as a crown on the heads of all Yemenis.

Before this Yemeni historic national achievement, the country was experiencing a rift that lasted for over 135 years. The imamate injustice was raging in the north and the colonization injustice was raging in the south, but the ties of the Yemeni family remained closely knit.

Despite the colonization and the clerical rule in the north, the Yemenis remained close to each other countrywide, and thus unity naturally emerged over time, without facing any problems.

I would like to say on this occasion that I approved the departure of Ali Abdullah Saleh from power by approving earlier the Gulf initiative concluded in Riyadh. I delegated all my powers to the constitutional vice president who will bear responsibility until his election on 22 February.

I call upon all Yemenis to rally around the vice president and cooperate with him and with the national consensus government in the country's interest to restore and reform what was destroyed during 11 months. As for the years to come, the vice president will have his own platform and he stands from now as the president of the future.

I wish that everyone will stand by his side. Supporting him and the government is tantamount to supporting the country and our martyrs, the ones of September and October and others who fell during the so-called youth revolution and protests that took place during 11 months.

We do not need to be too long on this matter. During 11 months, roads and streets have been blocked, electricity has been cut, and an oil pipeline has been bombed. The youth revolution has been hijacked. There were also those who were once affiliated with the General People's Congress [GPC] and defected it because they are corrupt and think they are now victorious. We will leave these matters aside and turn our back to the events of the past.

From this place and standing as I am next to GPC leaders, the sons of this country and the sons of September, October, and 22 May, I call on all sides to remain united and achieve reconciliation and openness. But this call excludes situations involving terrorism which should be dealt with at another level.

I am calling for openness and reconciliation in the aftermath of the Gulf initiative, as part of a general national conference. People should make it up with each other, armed manifestations should be lifted, roads should reopen, militarization and militias should disappear, so that we can rebuild a new Yemen.

Poor youths! They have been spending months in the protests! O youths, return to your homes, return to your homes! Return to your families! I have pity on you and I am asking you to return to your homes and open a new page with the new leadership in place.

I am also calling on the GPC leaders, members and supporters as well as the National Democratic Alliance parties to take a serious stand towards the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for 21 February and exert their best efforts for this event.

This will not be Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi's achievement, but the achievement of all Yemenis. This will be your own accomplishment, o GPC members, who achieved this democratic victory. I am asking you to head to the ballot boxes without delay to elect your candidate, who will be the candidate of reconciliation and the GPC's candidate as well.

We have already tried in previous elections to coordinate with other political parties and we know well what such coordination involves.

Despite their promises to elect and support the GPC candidate, the empty ballot boxes we found out exposed their real intentions. I rely on you, o GPC members and NDA parties, to fill the ballot boxes with voting cards

I thank our own people, men and women, for their sincere stands and for enduring hunger, power cuts, shortage of services and many other issues for 11 months.

I ask for pardon from all my people, men and women, for any shortcomings during my 33-year-long rule. I also ask for forgiveness and offer my apologies to all Yemeni citizens, men and women. We have now to focus on our martyrs and wounded people.

Again, I am sending my regards and appreciation to all Yemenis, domestically and aboard, for their outstanding steadfastness and ask them to return to their homes and remain calm.

God willing, I will leave the country to seek medical treatment in the United States, before returning to Sanaa as head of the GPC. We will inaugurate Abdo Rabbo Hadi as head of state after 21 February in the Presidential Palace. We will play the hymn of national peace and sing the national anthem, in a ceremony held in the Presidential Palace and attended by senior officials. The vice president will then take over the presidential compound while Ali Abdullah Saleh will lift his suitcase, bid the attendance farewell, and return home, according to the established protocol

Responsibility has now been granted to brother Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi. On this occasion, I would like to announce to you from here, that this man has been promoted to the rank of general, in respect and appreciation of his stands and national efforts.

Yemen army reinforces militant-held town

SANAA | Mon Jan 23, 2012

(Reuters) - Yemen's military has sent extra forces to a town Islamists seized last week, after negotiations with the militant group's leader broke down, residents and witnesses said Monday.

Tanks and armored vehicles were making their way toward Radda, about 170 km (105 miles) southeast of the capital Sanaa, a day after outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh left Yemen to seek medical treatment in the United States.

Neighboring oil giant Saudi Arabia and the United States - which long backed President Saleh as a key to its "counter-terrorism" policy - fear political paralysis over Saleh's fate could embolden al Qaeda in the country.

They support plans to ease him from office after 33 years in power with immunity from prosecution over the deaths of protesters in a year-long uprising against him.

This has been punctuated by bursts of open combat between Saleh's troops and those of a rebel general and tribal militiamen and militants have exploited weak government control to grab territory, notably in the southern province of Abyan.

Islamist militants entered Radda a week ago led by Tareq al-Dahab, a relative of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, whom Washington accused of a main role in the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda, and assassinated in a drone strike last year. Witnesses said the military had sent heavy armor to the town Monday.

"As we were leaving Radda we saw 15 tanks and more than 20 armored vehicles heading for one of the military bases on the west side of town," said one witness called Abdallah. Another said soldiers at checkpoints outside the town informed him that the reinforcements were meant to back an attack on the town.

Dahab had said he would withdraw from Radda on condition a council was set up to govern the town under Islamic law and that several jailed comrades, including his brother Nabil, were released, but talks fell through.

A tribesman involved in negotiating with Dahab on the government's behalf said other tribesmen were taking positions in the town and getting ready to fight.

"The fighters are equipped with machine guns, mortar shells, rocket propelled grenades and shoulder-borne rockets. Shop owners have moved their goods into storehouses outside the town and the situation could explode at any moment," he said.

Opponents of Saleh have accused him of exaggerating and even encouraging Islamist militancy in Yemen to bolster his position by presenting himself as the only person who can prevent al Qaeda growing stronger.

Saleh, who formally handed power to his deputy Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in November, travelled to Oman Sunday and is due to travel to the United States for medical treatment soon, though he said in a parting speech he would return to Yemen.

Hadi, whom parliament has endorsed as sole candidate in an election to pick Saleh's successor next month, Sunday spoke to U.S. counterterrorism chief John Brennan, who promised U.S. support, state news agency Saba reported.

Yemen army kills five Qaeda suspects

January 23, 2012 (AFP)

ADEN — Five suspected Al-Qaeda fighters were killed in clashes with Yemeni troops in the restive southern province of Abyan, local officials said on Monday.

One militant was killed and three were injured early Monday in an exchange of machinegun and artillery fire north of the provincial capital Zinjibar, where troops are battling to regain control of territory lost to Al-Qaeda last May.

On Sunday, after militants attacked an army barracks northeast of Zinjibar, the military fought back killing four insurgents, another local official said.

Al-Qaeda and its local affiliates, Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), have a strong presence in southern and eastern provinces, and have taken advantage of a revolt against President Ali Abdullah Saleh to expand their hold on the region.