Thursday, January 26, 2012

US Hopeful Saleh Departure Will Help Yemen Heal

The top US diplomat in Yemen hailed President Ali Abdullah Saleh's departure from the country as a step towards stability.

By Gavriel Queenann


The top United States diplomat to Yemen hailed President Ali Abdullah Saleh's departure from the country, saying it would help ensure a stable transition.

Gerald Feierstein, on Thursday, denied reports the US was assisting Saleh in finding a country to go into exile in, adding his US visit was only for the duration of his medical treatment.

Saleh departed Yemen on Sunday for Oman to receive treatment related to burns he sustained in an assassination attempt in June 2011, after making an apology for any "shortcomings" in his 33-year rule.

On Wednesday, officials in Muscat refused to comment on whether Saleh had asked for a safe-haven there, but added they would take no steps that would strain relations with Yemen.

Before leaving, Saleh passed power to his deputy as part of a U.S.-backed deal brokered by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council aimed at ending nearly a year of unrest in the country.

Vice-President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, heading a government equally divided between opposition figures and holdovers from the Saleh era, is expected to win the presidential election by a clear margin on February 21.

Under the deal, Saleh was granted immunity for the deaths of protesters killed by his forces, but many in the country are still demanding his prosecution, making it difficult for neighboring Arab nations and the U.S. to offer him refuge.

Analysts, however, say that Saleh will likely remain outside Yemen until after February 21 when Hadi and his new government take formal control.

At that time, able to obtain assurances from the new Yemeni government of continued good relations, foreign nations may be more willing to offer Saleh asylum.

Hadi's government not only faces a state of deep impoverishment, but an unstable security situation that has threatened to destabilize the country.

Yemen's security commission, authorized to restore stability, has warned that any new incursion by Al Qaeda militants or other groups will be dealt with firmly.

The statement comes as hundreds of Al Qaeda terrorists pulled out of a town that has been under its control since mid-January.

SANA news agency quoted a source from the commission as saying that the militants were driven out of Rada, thanks to local tribal mediation.

However, observers say it is unlikely similar mediation will succeed in the southern province of Abyan which is overrun by Al Qaeda, because local tribes are backing the terror group.

The U.S., which worked extensively with the Saleh government to mount a counter-terrorism campaign against Al Qaeda, is expected to aid in the Yemeni attempt to restore order to the south.

Al Qaeda presently threatens the key southern port city of Aden, which sits on a strategic approach to the Red Sea and Suez Canal.

The commission also faces a contentious situation in the north, where local tribesmen and ultra-conservative Suni elements have come into open conflict over doctrinal disputes.

Tribesmen in Yemen's north rebelled against Saleh more than once.

UN Warns about Security Deterioration in Yemen

January 26, 2012

United Nations, Jan 26 (Prensa Latina) The UN Security Council warned about the deterioration of security and the increasing presence of Al Qaeda group in Yemen, but welcomed the implementation of the political transition plan in that country.

In a communiqué issued on Wednesday night, the international body expressed its concern over the existing humanitarian problems in that Arab State, marked by food shortages and high levels of malnutrition, as well as people displaced from their hometowns.

The 15 members of the Council received a report by UN Special Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar and reaffirmed their "unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and expressions."

However, they considered that some progress has been made in the implementation of the political transition plan, based on an initiative by the Gulf Cooperation Council that promoted President Ali Abdulah Saleh's withdrawal from power.

Regarding this issue, the Security Council urged to hold credible and peaceful elections on February 21, and requested the creation of a constructive political and social environment.

Sectarian clashes kill 22 in Yemen

Houthis and Salafists fight in northern Saada province


Thursday, January 26, 2012

At least 22 people were killed in clashes between rebels and fighters from an Islamist group in a province under rebel control in rugged northern Yemen, tribal sources said on Thursday.

A source close to the rebels known as Houthis said fighters from a group known as the Salafi attacked the rebels overnight in Hajja and in the Kataf area of Saada province, an area that has seen intense sectarian fighting in recent months.

"We blocked the attack in under an hour and 13 people died in Hajja and nine in Kataf," said the Houthi source.

The Houthis, who draw their name from a tribal leader, had fought government forces for years until an uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh last year gave them free rein in Saada province, which borders Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom briefly fought the Houthis in Saada after they seized Saudi territory in 2009.

Political upheaval has severely weakened central government control over swathes of Yemen, allowing some groups to seize whole provinces including Saada.

"The whole governorate (Saada) is controlled by Houthis, we only have to deal with one party," the International Committee of the Red Cross's (ICRC) head of operations for the Near and Middle East, Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, said in an interview.

In Yemen's south, Islamist militants have gained control over several towns in Abyan province, forcing hundreds to flee the violence and take refuge in the southern port city of Aden, which has since seen a string of targetted attacks.

A local official in Aden said Yemeni army colonel Sanad Badr Abdullah had survived an assassination attempt on Wednesday night in which his wife was injured. Witnesses said a bomb exploded as he got out of his car.

Saleh left Sanaa for medical treatment in the United States on Sunday, saying in a parting speech that he would return to Yemen, which was paralysed for most of 2011 by protests against his 33-year rule.

Despite his absence, many fear he and his associates will continue to hold sway over the country.

Yemeni air force officers went on strike for a fifth day on Thursday, demanding the resignation of their commander Mohammed Saleh Al Ahmar, a half-brother of Saleh.

Soldiers who defected from Saleh's forces and joined those calling for his overthrow said government forces had kidnapped two senior air force officers in the coastal city of Hudaida for supporting the strike.