Sunday, February 26, 2012

Report: Two killed in fighting in central Yemen

Feb 26, 2012
Sana'a- At least two people were killed Sunday in fighting between army soldiers and insurgents in the central Yemeni town of Rada'a, reported local media.
The fighting started when a unit from the elite Republican Guards arrived in Rada'a, some 150 kilometres south-east of the capital Sana'a, to arrest a man suspected of stealing a soldier's gun, local sources told the Yemeni website Mareb Press.
The insurgents and soldiers exchanged fire, injuring four people, said the sources.
The two deaths were a soldier and the suspected thief of the gun, they added. A battalion of armed radicals with links to al-Qaeda last month seized Rada'a before releasing it following tribal mediation.
Militants - believed to be affiliated to al-Qaeda - have taken advantage of a year of political turmoil in Yemen to expand their influence in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.
The opposition has accused former president Ali Abdullah Saleh of manipulating the threat of extremists to seek support from the West and extend his stay in power, despite months of protests against him.
Saleh eventually stepped down under a United Nations-sponsored power transfer deal, which he signed in November.
His successor, Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi, vowed Saturday in his inaugural address to fight al-Qaeda across the country.

GCC Secretary General visits Sana’a tomorrow GCC Secretary General visits Sana’a tomorrow

Riyadh, Feb. 26 (BNA) – GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, departs on an official visit tomorrow (Monday 27 Feb. 2012) to the Republic of Yemen, leading a delegation from the GCC General-Secretariat, in response to an invitation extended by the Yemeni Foreign Affairs' Minister Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Quorbi.
Dr. Al-Zayani and the accompanying delegation are expected to meet with the newly-elected Yemeni President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi and also with the Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa, in addition to a number of senior officials in Yemen.
The delegation shall discuss relations with Yemen in various aspects, especially pertaining to the GCC Initiative for Yemen, and the mechanism of implementation.

New Yemeni President Has Plenty of Challenges

Laura Kasinof | February 26, 2012
Sana, Yemen. Yemen’s first new president in more than three decades was sworn in on Saturday, taking over the government of a country with a broken economy, crumbling infrastructure, violent separatist movements, an active Al Qaeda franchise and Islamist militants in control of large swaths of territory.
After a year of anti-government protests and rising insecurity in a country the United States sees as a critical ally in the fight against Al Qaeda, Yemenis were hopeful that the new government led by Abed Rabu Mansour Hadi, the former vice president, would be a fresh start.
But as if to underscore the problems Hadi faces, hours after he took the oath of office and promised to continue the war on Al Qaeda, militants attacked government targets in the southeastern port of Mukalla, killing at least 21 soldiers.
The swearing-in ceremony, in a room in Parliament packed with legislators, diplomats and journalists, was strikingly cheerful. Members of the former ruling party and the opposition, who fought bitterly over the past year, greeted each other with smiles, handshakes and kisses on the cheek.
When Hadi entered, the room burst into applause. He took the oath standing between two men who led enemy camps last year, Yahya al-Rayie, the Parliament speaker and a loyalist of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and Himyar al-Ahmar, whose tribesmen fought government forces on the streets of northern Sanaa.
 “I know that there are complex and interlocking crises: economic, social and security,” he said afterward.
He called the fight against Al Qaeda “a national and religious duty.” And in an indirect reference to his predecessor, the autocratic Saleh, he urged officials from both sides to work together to “build a strong state through establishing institutions that are not based on a single personality.”
Hadi, 65, had been chosen as a consensus candidate by the former ruling party and the opposition, and was confirmed in a one-candidate election on Tuesday.
Despite the lack of choice, turnout was heavy, said by the government to be 65 percent, suggesting that after more than a year of protests in which hundreds were killed, Yemenis were eager to embrace change.
“We consider this a historic day for Yemen,” said Ali al-Mamari, a legislator who quit Saleh’s party last spring after government supporters used violence against peaceful protesters.
“All year there was a revolution, but now a new revolution started that is without weapons, without conflict, to transform our country into a civil state. I am incredibly happy.”
The challenges remaining, however, are immense.
 “This transfer of presidential power is historic for Yemen,” said April Alley, a regional analyst for the International Crisis Group. “But it’s the days ahead that are going to really matter.
 “There are the economic and security challenges that are immediate,” she said. “And also there are political challenges when it comes to pulling the country back together, dealing with the separatist movement in the south and a different set of grievances with the Houthis,” rebels who control Saada Province in the north.
The United States, which sees Yemen largely through the lens of counterterrorism, is expected to be involved in restructuring the military into what it hopes will be a more effective force against Al Qaeda. President Barack Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, raised those concerns in private meetings with Hadi in Sanaa last week.
Even the accomplishment being celebrated on Saturday, the end of Saleh’s 33-year rule, was tempered by the reality that he still wields considerable influence. His relatives control most of the military and government security agencies, and it is not known how independent Hadi, a longtime Saleh loyalist, will be.
Saleh kept a low profile on Saturday and, despite having promised to hand over power formally to Hadi, did not attend the ceremony.
The new unity government, composed of members of Saleh’s party and the opposition, is to begin a national dialogue on a new constitution. If that effort is to succeed, the government will need to find a way to bring in the separatists in the south and the Houthis.
The south has been discriminated against and marginalized by the Saleh government since north and south Yemen unified in 1990, and many southerners bitterly hate the Sanaa government.
New York Times

Yemeni Army Kills Five Qaida Suspects

February 26, 2012
Yemeni troops killed five suspected al-Qaida militants early on Sunday in an artillery attack in the southern city of Zinjibar, a local official said.
"The army launched an attack on several (al-Qaida) positions ... leaving five dead and several others wounded," the official told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity.
He said the attack followed clashes late on Saturday between militants from the al-Qaida-linked Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) and government forces in the city.
In the nearby town of Loder, meanwhile, security forces arrested four al-Qaida-linked militants, a military official told AFP.
Tribesman also captured a fifth al-Qaida suspect who was in possession of an explosive belt, a tribal source said.
The overnight violence came just hours after a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle outside a presidential palace in southeastern Yemen, killing 26 elite troops.
A military official said the bombing in the Hadramawt provincial capital of Mukalla bore the hallmark of al-Qaida.
Last May, militants from the Partisans of Sharia took control of Zinjibar, triggering months of fighting with government troops.
So far, at least three tribal-mediated negotiation attempts to secure the militants' withdrawal have failed.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting and more than 90,000 residents have been displaced.
In the year since mass protests erupted throughout Yemen demanding president Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster, the militants have taken over several towns and cities in the south and east.

Obama welcomes new Yemen leader, pushes for reform, election

February 25, 2012
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama told Yemen's new president on Saturday the United States would be a steadfast partner and urged him to follow through on promises for a broad national dialogue, political reforms and elections by 2014.
"I told President (Abd-Rabbu Mansour) Hadi that the United States will stand with the people of Yemen as they continue their efforts to forge a brighter future for their country," Obama said in a statement.
He also offered condolences for the victims of a suicide bombing, claimed by al Qaeda, that killed at least 26 people outside a presidential palace in southern Yemen on Saturday hours after Hadi was sworn in.