Thursday, March 8, 2012

Yemen officer, 6 bodyguards killed in shootout

Thu Mar 8, 2012
 SANAA (Reuters) - A Yemeni army officer and six of his bodyguards were killed in a shootout with Shi'ite Muslim rebels on Thursday in the north of the country, where rebels have snatched territory during a year of anti-government protests, an official said.
Political upheaval that paralysed Yemen for most of 2011 has severely weakened central government control over swathes of the country, allowing the rebels - known as Houthis - effectively to carve out a state within a state along the border with top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.
"The head of an army brigade and six of his bodyguards were killed in an exchange of gunfire with the Houthis when they refused to stop at an armed checkpoint set up by the Houthis in the Harf Safyan district of Amran province, north of Sanaa," the official said, adding that three Houthis had also been killed.
The head of the Houthis said two of their fighters had died and a third was missing.
"This brutal, unjustified aggression reveals the barbarity of this officer and those who stand behind him and their disregard for the blood of the people and their hatred for the sons of the northern provinces," Abdulmalik al-Houthi said in a statement.
Amran province, where the gun battle took place, is partly controlled by Houthis, who have free rein in the governorate of Saada.
Saudi Arabia briefly fought the Houthis in north Yemen after they grabbed Saudi territory in 2009.
The U.S. envoy to Yemen said last month there were signs that Shi'ite Iran was becoming more active in Yemen, posing a threat to the country's security and stability. Iran denies interfering there.
Predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally, says Iran is fomenting unrest among Shi'ites in its east and in neighbouring Bahrain.
The Houthis have accused Riyadh of smuggling weapons to fellow Sunnis in northern Yemen, with whom they have fought regularly in recent months.
Rebellion in the north is just one of a host of challenges facing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who officially replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh last month after a year of anti-government protests.
Apart from a looming humanitarian crisis, the south of the country is home to rising secessionist sentiment and a tenacious arm of al Qaeda, which has launched a string of deadly attacks on the army since Hadi took office.

Yemen army kills seven militants in Zinjibar

March 8, 2012
ADEN — The Yemeni army has killed seven suspected Al Qaeda militants in an artillery strike on Zinjibar, an extremist stronghold in the restive southern Abyan province, a military official said on Thursday.
The assault follows one of the deadliest Al Qaeda attacks on Yemeni security forces in the southern outskirts of Zinjibar on Sunday that killed 185 troops.
 The army fired artillery shells at Al Qaeda positions in Zinjibar” late Wednesday night, the official said on condition of anonymity.
A local official in the nearby town of Jaar meanwhile said that “the bodies of seven Al-Qaeda fighters” were transferred to the militant stronghold for burial.
Al-Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack, said in a statement it took “73 soldiers” captive and seized a tank, anti-aircraft weapons, a rocket launcher, rockets and 11 Kalashnikov assault rifles, as well as three military vehicles and “a large amount of ammunition.”
Yemen’s newly formed cabinet at an emergency meeting late Wednesday condemned Al-Qaeda’s escalating attacks in the country’s mostly lawless south and urged the divided and battered security forces to “unite in the face of terrorism and extremism...that threatens Yemen’s security and stability.”
The ministers in a statement released on the official SABA news agency cautioned they would not hesitate “to punish ... those (members of the security forces) who neglect their duties.”
The government warning was triggered by allegations that Sunday’s assault on the army base in Kud was an “inside job” and that some soldiers had collaborated with the extremists.
The ministry of interior meanwhile said late Wednesday that an Al Qaeda plot to seize the city of Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt, had been uncovered and that security forces in the area have been placed on high alert.
Attacks on security forces have escalated since President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi pledged, during his presidential inauguration speech on February 25, to eradicate Al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda and their local affiliates have launched near daily attacks on security forces and police in Abyan, as well as the provinces of Bayda, Shabwa and Hadramawt in the south and east of the country.

UN condemns attack on army camp

March 8 2012
The UN Security Council on Wednesday condemned “in the strongest terms” an attack on an army camp in southern Yemen that killed 185 soldiers.
In a statement published after talks on Yemen at the council, the 15 member states “reiterated their determination to combat all forms of terrorism.”
Calling terrorism “one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,” they said that “any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable.”
The council also reminded concerned states that “they must ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.”
Al-Qaeda earlier claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack at an army camp in Kud, a town in southern Abyan province.
The militants said they seized a tank, anti-aircraft weapons, a rocket launcher, rockets and 11 Kalashnikov assault rifles, as well as three military vehicles and “a large amount of ammunition.”
They also claimed to have destroyed two tanks and burned an ammunition store. - AFP

Shia-Sunni Ties in Post-revolution Yemen

March 8, 2012
For years, Yemen’s Shiite minority has taken up arms against the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, complaining of the State neglect and aggression.
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - Now, after Saleh’s departure and the election of a new president, questions are rising whether the armed Shiite rebellion would see an end in post-revolution Yemen.
"The fact that al-Houthis understood they could use politics to their advantage is an important psychological shift,” Ahmed al-Soufi, a Yemeni political analyst, told
"The group understood that rebellion itself would not serve their long term interests.”
For years, Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, took up arms against the government troops of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in northern Yemen.
The Houthis, a Zaidi tribal group from the Northern Province of Sa’ada, say that their rebellion was in response to government aggressions on their villages.
Houthis have recently announced plans to form a political party to participate in the country’s next election.
Analysts opine that the Houthis now could take their fight onto the political arena, leaving behind their warrior-like ways.
"Ultimately, Sheikh Abdel Mageed al-Houthi wants to have a voice in Yemen’s future and he knows that in order to achieve that he needs to become visible on a political level.”
Al-Houthi movement first emerged in Yemen in the 1990s when Sheikh Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi founded a political and paramilitary group called the Believing Youth.
Essentially, Badr al-Din sought to revive Shiitism in Yemen, advocating a return to the ancestral rule of the Imams.
At the time, the Houthis did not openly call for the overthrow of President Saleh, himself a Zaidi but rather sought a partnership in their calls for change.
But Saleh’s ally with the US in the so-called "war on terror” changed everything.
The Houthis, who see the United States as a direct enemy of Islam, violently opposed the government, calling for Saleh’s ouster.
The killing of the group’s leader Sheikh Hussein al-Houthi in 2004 in a government attempt to arrest him escalated the situation, prompting a widespread insurrection in Sa’ada.
For the next 5 years, the Yemeni army battled out the Houthis, deepening the resentment of Sa’ada residents towards the state and its amicable foreign policies towards the West.
Sunnis make up nearly 60 percent of Yemen’s population, while the Shiites account for 40 percent.
The two groups lived peacefully side by side, but political affiliations and regional game plans threw off the balance of the ideological truce, spurring violence.

Al-Qaeda dangerously close to turning Yemen into a new Afghanistan

Jim Kouri
Law Enforcement Examiner
March 8, 2012
The Yemeni police and security forces were placed Monday and Tuesday on maximum alert following a weekend of deadly terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who have gained control of most of Yemen's provinces in that country's south, a U.S. security official told the Law Enforcement Examiner.  
The security official said he and several colleagues believe the next terror threats to be faced by Americans within the continental United States will be perpetrated by Yemeni-connected al-Qaeda terrorists.
"It doesn't take much imagination to envision Yemen turning into a new Afghanistan complete with training camps and volunteers to travel to the U.S. and European nations to plan and carry out terrorist attacks," said the Law Enforcement Examiner's anonymous security source. 
The Yemeni government terror alert announcement came after the death toll rose to 150 from fighting in the southern province of Abyan between al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Yemeni police commandos and security force.
No longer depending solely on police and security forces, the Yemeni government issued a directive demanding all combat forces, including the air force, to fully prepare for combat with AQAP in the southern provinces of Abyan, Aden, Lahj and al-Bayda, the security official told the Law Enforcement Examiner.
"The order was made following a meeting on Monday between President Abd-Rabbu Hadi and the generals of the Yemeni Republican Guard, Yemen Special Forces, the Central Security Forces and the southern military brigades," the source said, adding that "there is some talk of unleashing an offensive against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) within a week."
The situation in Yemen is being closely monitored by the Obama national security team since there are a number of U.S. special forces and military advisors assisting in counterterrorism there, the Law Enforcement Examiner source said.
This latest development came a mere few hours after al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for bombing an Antonov military cargo plane within the capital Sanaa, which was blown up on Saturday, according to an Israeli source in Tel Aviv.
Al-Qaeda admitted  bombing the plane is part of the terror group's  'Operation Cutting the Tail'  which it claims already captured 70 soldiers after it overran a military base on Sunday, the anonymous Israeli source informed the Law Enforcement Examiner.
Meanwhile, al-Qaeda leaders claimed on Monday that despite the resistance of government forces and air raids during the Sunday battle, only two of its fighters were killed and 13 others wounded, according to the Amit Meir Information Center in Israel.
Overall, suicide car bombs and violent attacks against the Yemeni forces have increased over the past two weeks. A deadly suicide bombing two weeks ago that targeted the presidential palace killed nearly 30 Republican Guards, at the same day when Hadi was sworn in at the parliament. The al-Qaeda terrorists claimed responsibility for the attack on the following day.
The AQAP attacks underscore the challenges facing the new president who won support from major political forces, the United States and Saudi Arabia. He is tasked with restoring security and stability to Yemen and putting an end to growing influence of al- Qaeda that threatens the daily oil shipping routes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, according to Amit Meir.
Meanwhile, al-Qaeda in Iraq launched a deadly attack yesterday that left 27 policemen killed, according to Law Enforcement Examiner's Israeli source.
"The gunmen were carrying forged arrest warrants and used their fake military uniforms and vehicles to deceive the police checkpoints and to help in capturing and murdering their targets in the city of Baghdad," the source said.