Friday, January 27, 2012

Yemen: 46 reported killed in northern rebel violence Sana'a | Jan 27, 2012 The northern area of Haijah was the scene of violent clashes between Hout

Yemen: 46 reported killed in northern rebel violence

Sana'a | Jan 27, 2012

The northern area of Haijah was the scene of violent clashes between Houthi Shia insurgents and Sunni gunmen loyal to the central government. The Houthis are seizing more territory. A leader of the Sunni gunmen claimed that 40 of the dead were rebels.

The Houthis claim that the Sunnis attacked them and that they were supported not only by the central government but by Saudi Arabia. The clashes are ongoing. The Sunni group supported President Saleh quite strongly.

The Houthis have demanded more autonomy from the central government for years. The demand has often broken out into open conflict with the central government. The Sunni group complained that Houthis have killed 71 of their people during the last two months without even counting the recent clashes.

Yemen's "parallel revolution" inspires street-level protests

By Tom Finn

Fri Jan 27, 2012

SANAA (Reuters) - The protest that paralyzed Yemen's main airport erupted when an air force officer hurled a boot at his commander, a relative of the outgoing president and a symbol of the corruption that divides even his supporters.

"This is all I have left for the month," says Faris Al-Jabar, one of about 50 officers who blocked Sanaa airport's runway this week, plucking a few banknotes from his tattered wallet.

"I earn in a month what my superiors spend in a day."

Their mutiny last week against General Mohammed Saleh Al-Ahmar, half-brother of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, halted flights at the capital's airport.

Riot police used water cannon to scatter the rebel airmen but they decamped to picket the heavily fortified home of Saleh's deputy, the country's acting leader.

Saleh's departure for medical treatment in the United States has done little to placate popular anger in the impoverished Arabian peninsula state.

Saleh's sons and nephews still hold key positions in the military and intelligence services, though the military is supposed to be restructured during two years of transition presided over by vice-president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Saleh's presumed successor.

A string of mutinies has disrupted military and government departments headed by loyalists of Saleh, who has agreed to step down after a year of protests, and are inspiring wider civil disobedience.

Many protesters complain the regime they sought to overthrow remains largely intact.

"They may have altered the leadership but at the ground level we see no changes. The same corrupt officials who ruled for decades are still running our country," said Ahmed Al-Zumair, a 45-year-old civil servant.


From petrol stations to government newspapers, workers have been turning on their superiors, storming offices to demand reforms and the dismissal of managers whom they claim are corrupt beneficiaries of the regime.

Dubbed 'the parallel revolution', at least 19 state institutions have been targeted by protesters, among them Sanaa police headquarters, the Armed Forces Moral Guidance Department, the Agriculture and Irrigation office, the coastguards, the traffic police and state television.

"It is a more dramatic and efficient way of effecting change that reflects the grievances of civil servants who have been controlled by corrupt officials for a very long time," said AbdulGhani Al-Iryani, a prominent Yemeni political analyst.

"They are not willing to wait for political negotiations to deal with these corrupt officials so they're taking things into their own hands and it's proving remarkably effective."

Notable triumphs for the strikers since mid-December include the sacking of President Saleh's son-in-law, Abdul Khaleq al-Qadi, who was director of the national airline Yemeniyya, after its workers disrupted operations.

This was followed by the dismissal of General Ali Hassan al-Shater after protesters seized control of his influential 26 September army newspaper and published a damning editorial against him.

Both men were long-standing allies of the president, previously regarded by their staff as untouchable.


The recent wave of disobedience may give Hadi, who is set to become president next month, the chance to assert himself as a political figure in his own right.

"Hadi is seeking to step out from Saleh's shadow. Dislodging some of those notoriously corrupt men who have close ties to the president is one way of doing that," said Abdullah al-Faqih, a professor of politics at Sana'a University.

He acknowledged, though, that the graft problem was deeply rooted and would outlive Saleh's regime. "It will be an uphill struggle - patronage remains the modus vivendi of Yemen politics."

An end to corruption was a central motivating force in anti-government protests that quickly turned into calls for the ouster of Saleh, whose forces killed hundreds of protesters in an attempt to end the demonstrations and underpin his position.

With a hugely overstaffed and underpaid civil service, Yemen has endured an epidemic of corruption, slipping in 2011 from 146 to 164 on Transparency International's corruption scale.

Enraged by months of fuel shortages and day-long power outages residents of Sanaa have taken a cue from the strikers, forcing their government to listen.

On Tuesday a band of young men sealed off a main highway with piles of rocks and flaming car tires to demand their homes be supplied with water after a two-month cutoff.

They fended off angry drivers, and even police cars, with shouts and nail-studded planks, and the blockades dragged on for hours until a government water-truck arrived with the promise of filling their tanks.

"These people have learned a new culture, which is the culture of strikes and disobedience," said Maher, a 20-year-old bystander.

"They feel they can vent their anger against anything that goes against their welfare. They are tired of being ignored."

Focus on elections, U.N. tells Yemen

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- All members of Yemeni society should focus on February presidential elections for the sake of national security, a U.N. special envoy said.
Embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a deal last year to step down in exchange for immunity from prosecution, paving the way for a February election.
Jamal Benomar, the U.N. special adviser for Yemen, told the U.N. Security Council that all members of Yemeni society should coordinate to ensure a peaceful transition happens after the Feb. 21 election.
"As an immediate step, all efforts should now be focused on ensuring the holding of peaceful elections," he said.
A statement from the Security Council read, "The members of the Security Council reiterated that all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, including acts of violence, must be held accountable."
U.N. officials said they opposed the immunity deal, though U.S. State Department officials said Saleh has diplomatic privileges afforded to sitting heads of state while in the country.
Saleh is headed to the United States for medical treatment for wounds suffered during a June assassination attempt.

Kidnapped Norwegian freed in Yemen

Fri Jan 27, 2012

SANAA (Reuters) - A Norwegian working for the United Nations was freed on Friday, nearly two weeks after being kidnapped in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, the Interior Ministry said.

A tribal source had said the Norwegian was abducted by tribesmen from oil-producing Maarib province demanding the release of a suspect accused of killing two members of the security forces.

"He arrived in Sanaa and is in good health," an official at the U.N. office in Sanaa told Reuters. A UN statement said the man will return to his home country to recuperate.

Lawlessness has gripped Yemen, one of the world's most impoverished countries, since mass protests calling for the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule began a year ago.

One soldier was injured when unidentified militants attacked a security checkpoint in the port city of Aden late on Thursday.

Saleh bowed to protesters' demands and is en route to the United States via Oman for medical treatment. He left behind a country facing numerous challenges, including a growing al Qaeda threat in the south.

Washington and Yemen's oil-rich neighbor Saudi Arabia have long seen Saleh as a bulwark against the Islamist group's Yemen-based regional wing, which Washington believes is the network's most dangerous branch.

A Houthi rebellion in the north and separatist sentiment in the country's south also pose challenges to a new government.

Leaders of the Houthis and separatists said on Friday they would boycott the February presidential election meant to pull the country back from the brink of civil war.

Residents told Reuters that the flag of the old southern Yemeni state, which had been an independent socialist nation before Saleh unified Yemen in 1994, appeared at the top of street lamps across the former state's capital Aden on Sunday.

"The people of the south reject the elections completely as (they) are not in the favor of the south," separatist leader Nasser al-Khubbagi told Reuters.

"Holding them is an affirmation of the (northern) occupation and legitimizes its continuation in the south."