Sunday, February 12, 2012

Yemen’s Sheikh Hameed al-Ahmar buys politicians

Chiara Onassis | 12 February 2012

SANA’A: Yemen’s Sheikh Hameed al-Ahmar’s name has come to be associated again with scandal, which could potentially send shockwaves not only through the Yemeni community, but across European Union institutions.

Sheikh al-Ahmar, who is one of Yemen’s wealthiest businessmen, with the Times having estimated his personal fortune to several tens of billions of dollars, also hails from Yemen’s most prominent and powerful tribal family.

Younger brother to Sheikh Sadeeq al-Ahmar, the mighty leader of the Hasheed confederation of tribes, al-Ahmar is also President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s most virulent and vocal opponent, often having accused the veteran autocrat of abusing his position for personal gain.

Hameed, who is well-known for his less than savory business ethics in the country, has often been linked to corruption, embezzlement and countless cases of abuse of power without the justice system ever being able to pin him down for more than a speeding ticket.

Only one month ago, however, a Dubai court indicted him in a case of money laundering, claiming that the Sheikh was using the Emirates to syphon hundreds of millions of dollars.

Today, men working closely with the Sheikh revealed under cover of anonymity, for they feared for their lives, that Hameed had several prominent politicians and foreign officials on his payroll against “favors and privileges.”

“The Sheikh wants to ensure that his reign over Yemen will survive beyond the end of the regime. He actually hopes that with Saleh gone he will eventually become Yemen’s most powerful man,” said a close associate.

Troubling, the source told that Michele Cervone d’Urso, the European Union ambassador to Yemen would be receiving $50,000 per month from the Sheikh as the two men were business partners. could not independently verify this accusation.

Since al-Ahmar happens to be a leading member of al-Islah, Yemen’s Islamist political faction, and therefore an acting political force in Yemen, several of the Sheikh’s detractors are already raising several question marks over the ethics of such dealings, whispering of a more sinister reality.

According to sources on the ground in Sana’a, the situation could quickly devolve into a widespread scandal that could engulf European institutions and officials.


Fire In The North

February 12, 2012: Despite the presidential elections on the 21st, many Yemenis are still protesting. That's because the peace deal that saw president Saleh give up power, calls for his vice presidents to be the only candidate in the upcoming presidential elections. There is still a lot of corruption and ineffective government to protest. The military commanders, and their troops, who deserted and joined rebel groups, are still rebellious. Some 300 people have been killed in a year of demonstrations, with many more casualties from tribal and al Qaeda violence. The revolution will not be over by the end of the month. The separatist tribes in the south are simply unhappy with corruption and lack of benefits from the central government. These southern tribes are held in check by the troops who remain loyal to the government.
In the northwest, the rebel Shia tribes are expanding control of their territory, by taking advantage of the unrest in the rest of the country. The government cannot spare troops to help the pro-government tribes in the north. A major part of the tribal feuds in the north is religion. The Islamic conservatives in Sunni tribes consider the Shia tribesmen heretics. The Shia want their traditional autonomy back, but the central government has been fighting that independence for decades. A key battle now is a siege at an Islamic conservative religious school at Damaj Salafi near Saada (the largest city in the north and near the Shia "capital" of Saada) The Dar al-Hadith school has 7,000 teachers, students and families trapped, on-and-off for five months, by Shia gunmen. Unless the government can get lots of troops into the north, the Shia will establish their own state in the northwest, along the Saudi border.
February 10, 2012: In the south, an al Qaeda death squad killed a police commander.
February 9, 2012: In the southern city of Daleh, police fired on a separatist demonstration, leaving two demonstrators dead. The separatists feel that their demands are being ignored.
February 7, 2012: Eritrea has seized five more Yemeni fishing boats in an area where both nations claim fishing rights. Eritrea does this regularly, and usually keeps the boats while releasing the crews after a few months. This led to a brief war in 1995, and frequent tension since. Eritrea is also accused of helping Iran smuggle weapons to the northern Shia tribes of Yemen. Eritrea is an ally of Iran.
February 6, 2012: In the last two days, northern tribes (Shia rebels and pro-government Sunnis) ended their cease fire and fought, leaving over fifty dead and many more wounded.
February 4, 2012: Violence in the Abyan Province capital of Zinjibar left four Islamic terrorists and a soldier dead. For the last eight months troops have been fighting to eject Islamic radical tribesmen from Zinjibar. The Islamic radicals have been chased from several other towns, but not Zinjibar.
February 2, 2012: Six foreign aid workers, kidnapped last month, were released after the government released a tribesman who had been arrested for murder. Such kidnappings are common in Yemen.
February 1, 2012: In the southern town of Zinjibar, four Islamic terrorists died when the bomb they were building went off. Three other Islamic terrorists were killed in combat.
January 31, 2012: In central Yemen, al Qaeda gunmen ambushed an army patrol, killing two soldiers.
In the capital, gunmen tried to kill the Information Minister, but failed.
January 30, 2012: In a UAV missile attack 120 kilometers southeast of Zinjibar, four al Qaeda men were killed (and eight more wounded) while riding in two captured armored vehicles.
Source: Strategy Page

Separatists set fire to Yemen protest camp

Feb 12, 2012

ADEN: Southern separatists in Yemen set fire to a tent camp housing anti-government protesters in the port city of Aden, witnesses said on Sunday, in opposition to an election this month to replace outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Southern separatists joined protesters calling for Saleh to leave last year, but the two sides have since grown apart. The separatists want to revive a southern socialist state that was united with the north in 1990. They fear the Feb. 21 election will not serve their goal.

Anti-Saleh demonstrators broadly back the vote as a step toward ending his 33-year rule. Witnesses said hundreds of separatists marched through Aden, in southern Yemen, late on Saturday, setting fire to tents in the camp of about 100 protesters. About 10 people were injured.

Weakened by months of protests, the Yemeni government has lost control of whole chunks of the country.

Saudi Arabia and the United States are keen for the election to go ahead, fearing protracted instability in Yemen is giving Al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing room to expand their foothold there, near oil shipping routes through the Red Sea.

But northern rebels have said they too will boycott the vote, in which acting leader Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is the sole candidate to fill Saleh’s position.

Saleh is in the United States receiving medical treatment for injuries inflicted during an assassination attempt on him, but has said he will return home before the vote, shedding doubt on his commitment to leave office in line with a Gulf-brokered plan to end a year of political upheaval.

The Southern separatists accuse northerners of monopolizing power and usurping their resources.

Three separatist groups issued a statement denouncing the tent camp attack as a northern ploy to weaken the southern campaign for independence. “We ask all sides not to be dragged into a colonialist plot aimed at turning the struggle of our people against the (northern) colonizer into a south-south struggle,” they said in a statement. Saleh’s forces crushed a southern attempt to break away in 1994.

Official: Al-Qaida executes 2 Yemen men for collaborating with the U.S.

February 12, 2012

By The Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen — A security official says al-Qaida-linked militants have publicly executed two Yemenis suspected of collaborating with the United States.

The official says one of Sunday's executions took place in the town of Azan in Shabwa province and the other in the town of Jaar in neighboring Abyan province. Both towns are in southern Yemen, where militants have seized large swaths of territory in the past year as security has collapsed across the country.

The official says the men were suspected of planting electronic devices that help U.S. drones strike militant positions. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with security rules.

In September, a U.S. drone strike killed U.S.-born militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and a second American, Samir Khan, who edited al-Qaida's Internet magazine.