Saturday, February 4, 2012

Yemen negotiating Qaeda pullout from Zinjibar


February 4, 2012

ADEN — The government is trying to negotiate the withdrawal of Al-Qaeda linked militants from Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province in southern Yemen, tribal and government officials said on Saturday.

The negotiations, taking place through tribal mediators, are "ongoing," a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity, without giving further details.

Last May, the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), linked to Al-Qaeda, took control of Zinjibar, triggering nine months of deadly clashes between militants and government troops.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting and more than 90,000 residents displaced.

Tribal mediator Tareq al-Fadhli said the government's negotiating team comprised six members of parliament headed by the influential tribal chief and lawmaker Awad al-Wazir.

Al-Fadhli said he "passed on the demands of the Partisans of Sharia (to the lawmakers)" at a meeting on Saturday in the southern coastal town of Shaqra, 35 kilometres (22 miles) east of Zinjibar.

The militants are demanding assurances that "Sharia law be implemented" and government troops "retreat to their barracks," he said.

The Partisans of Sharia will withdraw from Zinjibar and police forces would be allowed back into town under the command of Abyan's current security chief once the conditions are met, he added.

Al-Fadhli said a "second phase" of negotiations would deal with the militants' pullback from other southern Yemeni towns once the withdrawal from Zinjibar is complete.

At least three tribal-mediated negotiation attempts to secure the militants withdrawal from Zinjibar have failed since the town fell.

On January 25, hundreds of Al-Qaeda gunmen bowed to tribal pressures and withdrew from the town of Rada, 130 kilometres (85 miles) southeast of the capital Sanaa.

Rada was overrun on January 16, the latest in a series of towns and cities to fall as Al-Qaeda takes advantage of a central government weakened by months of anti-regime protests.

Heavily armed tribes, which play a vital role in Yemeni politics and society, have been joining the army to battle militants linked to Al-Qaeda who have taken over several regions across the country's south and east.

Is Saleh running Yemen from US exile?

February 4, 2012

Some 20 gathered to protest Feb. 2 outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Manhattan's Central Park South, where the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is said to be staying. Protesters decried Saleh's his trip to New York City for medical treatment, and a deal he received that granted him immunity from prosecution for repression during the uprising last year. The rally was organized by a group calling itself the Yemeni American Coalition for Change. "We are greatly dissatisfied that the US chose to side with a dictator,” said Summer Nasser, a member of the coalition. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Yemeni activist Tawakul Karman spoke to the group from Yemen via cellphone and an interpreter. She accused Saleh of orchestrating violence in Yemen while in New York, and concluded: "We call on the US to hold Saleh accountable and not to allow him to rule Yemen from the US.” (NYT City Room blog, Feb. 2)

Meanwhile in Yemen, independent journalists lost a struggle as armed regime loyalists helped invade the nation's flagship newspaper, al-Thawra, and forcibly reinstated the ousted Saleh's image at the top of the Feb. 3 edition. Late the previous night, about 40 pro-regime journalists from al-Thawra and other government newspapers, supported by a group of armed men, entered the newsroom and took over the publication, according to three senior journalists at the paper. They retrieved the old masthead from the computer files and hastily wrote multiple stories in favor of President Saleh, which appeared in Friday's edition.

Since his departure for the US on Jan. 22, President Saleh has left day-to-day running of the government in the hands of his vice president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. However, he won't officially be stripped of his title as head of state until Feb. 21, when a referendum is scheduled to approve Hadi as the new leader—the only name on the ballot. The political limbo has left the bureaucracy wondering who is in charge, especially as the vice president has stayed behind closed doors, making no public statement since Saleh's departure.

Militants attack Yemen army base in south

By REUTERS 02/04/2012
ADEN - Militants attacked a Yemeni army base in the country's south, a local official said on Saturday, highlighting a security breakdown just weeks ahead of a presidential election aimed at ending a year of political upheaval.
One militant was killed in the attack on Friday night on the base on the outskirts of Lawdar in Abyan province, the official said. Explosions and heavy exchanges of gunfire were heard throughout the city, residents said.
Lawdar was the site of a US drone strike that killed at least 12 militants earlier this week amid a swell of violence in the south, where Islamist fighters suspected of links to al-Qaida have seized several towns.
Weakened by a year of protests against outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's government is facing challenges from al-Qaida-linked militants who have seized territory in the south and frequently attack state troops and offices.

Two killed in Yemen violence over presidential polls

Feb 4, 2012

Sana'a - Two people were killed and dozens injured in fighting in the southern Yemeni city of Aden between supporters and opponents of early presidential elections, reported the Yemeni website Mareb Press on Saturday.

The clashes began late Friday between members of the separatist Southern Movement and activists from the Islamists Islah Party who supports the election set for February 21, added the site, citing local sources.

The fighting started when the Islah activists staged a march to celebrate the first anniversary of a revolt against the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The march angered the Southern Movement for being held in an area the separatists see as their stronghold.

Machine guns and rocks were used in the violence, according to the Mareb Press.

After 33 years in power, Saleh signed in November a United Nations-sponsored deal to step down in return for immunity from prosecution.

The parliament unanimously nominated Vice President Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi as the sole presidential candidate for the polls.