Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yemeni tribesmen kidnap three Filipinos

SANAA, March 21 (Reuters) - Yemen tribal militants kidnapped three Filipinos in the central province of Maareb, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.
"The three sailors were kidnapped on Sunday as they were heading to the seaport in Mahra," the ministry said, adding that the tribal militants abducted the Filipino men to press the authorities into releasing a tribesman held by the authorities.
The incident, underscoring lawlessness in the Arabian Peninsula country, adds to the challenges facing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who took office last month after a year of massive protests that forced out predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Soldiers rebel against General Ali Mohsen

Chiara Onassis | 21 March 2012
SANA’A: Amidst new demonstrations demanding the end of the regime, this time Yemenis are turning against not only President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s loyalists but also the very people who only a few months ago offered their support to the revolution, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, among others.
Soldiers and officers of the 1st Armored Division told that the fact that the general had sided with the revolution last year in March did not make up for his decades of criminal activities and abuses.
“Gen. Mohsen has been as much a tyrant as President Saleh. We should not forget that this man has made an absolute fortune on the back of honest Yemenis, stealing lands and oppressing the weak,” said a soldier under cover of anonymity.
Another pointed out that if the general had indeed flipped sides after 3 decades as Saleh’s right hand it is because he feared people would prosecute him, not because he cared about freedom or democracy. “The man is a fraud. He had us under his thumb for years, treating like us like slaves and denying us our rights. We demand his immediate departure.”
On Wednesday in Sana’a, defectors resumed their sit-in in Asser Bridge announcing that this time they would stay until Mohsen’s demotion from his post as Commander of the 1st Armored Division was announced by President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Although the general declared months ago that he was willing to hand out his resignation to help Yemen transition from the old regime onto a civil state, he has yet to officially renounce his position.
Politicians from the General People’s Congress who are politically at odds with the general, himself a high ranking member of al-Islah, Yemen’s Islamic faction told that Mohsen would unlikely “quit” since he had become al-Ahmars’ armed arm and most tactical weapon against Saleh and his loyalists.
 “Without Mohsen, al-Ahmars would be left with only their tribal fighters. I don’t think they will give him up without a fight, especially since Saleh’s boys remain in place.” The politician was referring to Ahmed Ali Saleh, the former President’s eldest son who, to this day remains the Commander of the Republican Guards as well as Yehia and Ammar Mohamed Saleh, the nephews who lead respectively the Central Security Forces and the National Security Agency.

Yemen officers and soldiers join protests against Saleh

Fatik Al-Rodaini | 21 March 2012
SANA’A: Thousands of Yemeni officers and soldiers in both the security and army apparatuses defected last year in the revolution in protest against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. General Ali Mohsen, the Commander of the 1st Armored Division, critic of the regime, set in motion another wave of defections as more military men saw an opportunity to change alliances and put themselves at the service of the nation rather than the ruling family.
Most defectors complained of ill treatment from their superiors, talking of stolen rights and abuses, corruption and thievery.
”You don’t have the right to oppose your commander, instead you have to follow and obey the rule,” one soldier told
When officers and soldiers realize that the uprising was gaining momentum and was starting to gain some serious ground against the regime, many decided it was time to make the move towards the revolution, following in the footsteps of their Egyptian and Tunisian counterparts.
 “When the chance to defect came, we followed our brothers and sisters in their opposition of the regime. We rose up against bad treatments, abuse, oppression, corruption and lies. We want our rights back! We were born free and we are to remain so. We want to build a civil state where all Yemenis will be treated equally and fairly regardless of their social status,” said a defected soldier. interviewed several officers and soldiers who defected to the opposition, asking them the reasons behind their move.
”I refused the order of the officer, I told him, I’m free and I have the right to oppose” said Mahadi Soeleh, a soldier with the Central Security forces in Aden.
He added, ”My officer was a very bad person – he didn’t respect us as a human beings he treated us like animals. For that reasons I protested against him along with my colleagues at the camp.”
An officer of the Republican Guard, noted that his job in the corps was to mainly protect the people of Yemen from foreign threats, not to steal his country because his position allowed him to.
”I opposed my commander, and I decided to participate in the rebuilding of our country,” he said.
Mohammed Al-Shehari, a soldier in a security station, talked about the many abuses of power he witnessed while serving, how officers squeezed money out of civilians for they were trying to get their rights. “Officers were exploiting others’ misery, using their position to gain financially.
In March last year after the Friday of Dignity, I decided to join my friends.”
Another soldier in “Change Square” said: “We will stand with the will of the people and we will not kill unarmed youth. We are here to defend the people and we will do that.”
2 months ago, thousands of Yemeni low-ranking airmen went on strike demanding the immediate departure from his position of Major General Mohammed Saleh, President Saleh’s half-brother.
The mutiny against the air force commander, who has held his post for more than 20 years spread throughout 4 different provinces and a number of bases across the country, putting serious question marks over the unity of the army and its cohesion.
Despite the election of President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi, many men in the military are still unhappy warning that if nothing is done towards demoting their current commanders they will step up their protests and take matters in their owns hands.

U.S. senses threat from Iran in north Yemen

By Iona Craig - USA Today
Wednesday Mar 21, 2012
AL-KHAMISAIN, Yemen — Yaseen Sultan’s dark brown eyes welled up when he recounted the moment before he and his family fled their home.
Bullets were flying through the house, shells exploding in the street as Shiite Muslim rebels battled Sunni tribesmen in Yemen’s remote northern highlands. The 14-year-old boy was so scared, he says, he threw up.
Yemen is beset by three insurgencies, two in the south and one in the north, which borders Saudi Arabia. U.S. counterterrorism efforts have been centered in the south, where al-Qaida’s presence has grown and secessionist groups still launch attacks.
But the United States believes the north may be the latest place where another adversary is seeking to influence events.
 “We see Iranian efforts to increase their activities and take advantage of the political upheaval and build up their own presence,” Gerald Feierstein, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, said in a recent interview.
The Yemeni military has fought several wars in the north in recent years against a rebellion named for its founding commander, Hussein Badr Eddin al-Houthi, who was killed by Yemeni forces in 2004.
The movement’s grievances include the corruption and cronyism of the 33-year dictatorship of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who recently agreed to leave office. But his family and longtime regime members remain in power in the capital, Sanaa.
The political unrest has created opportunities for Yemen’s rebellions to gain power. They have been met largely by violence from a military controlled by Saleh’s eldest son and other relatives.
In the north, hundreds of thousands are being made homeless. The United Nations said last week that the number of those displaced during the past three months of fighting in Hajjah province is 52,000, adding to the more than 300,000 people from the neighboring province of Sa’ada already left homeless by wars over the past eight years.
Some believe the violence may be hurting chances for a negotiated settlement that meets grievances and ends extremist influence from outside.
 “Without adequately addressing the grievances of the Houthis and the Southern movement, Yemen won’t be able to function as a state that controls all of the territory within its borders,” said Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen specialist at Princeton University. “There is no military solution to either the Houthi conflict or the brewing one in the south. Both are political problems that require political solutions.”
Yemen’s northern conflict has remained largely hidden from the outside world. Saleh restricted humanitarian access and journalists were banned from the war zone.
In 2009, Saudi Arabia became involved in the conflict as clashes spread across their border. The Saudi air force joined in airstrikes by Saleh’s air force. Saleh responded to concerns about the conflict by insisting the Houthis were pro-Hezbollah and sponsored by Iran. The Houthi motto is “God is great, death to America, death to Israel.”
The Houthis say their goal is autonomy and protection for their Zaydi Shiite religious practices. Iran is a nation of largely Shiites; Saudi Arabia is largely Sunni Muslim. The Houthis were fighting Yemen troops into 2010, and since have been battling various tribes backed by a Sunni political party. Thus far, the Houthis have gained control over most of the province of Sa’ada and are fighting in adjacent provinces.
The Houthis have not been made part of Yemen’s new period of political transition that began with the inauguration of Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi as the country’s new leader, having boycotted his unopposed election.
Under the terms of the U.N.-sponsored transition deal agreed to by Saleh, a period of national dialogue is to take place to address multiple grievances including those of the Houthis. But the fighting persists and an increasing number of Yemenis are becoming reliant on foreign aid for food, water and shelter.
 “The government has no authority in the area,” says Taklu Nagga, head of the Hajjah office for the U.N. High Commission for Refugees. “It’s a battleground for tribesmen, and the situation is deteriorating.”
Two months after they fled their homes, Yaseen and sister Asmar are in their first day of school in al-Khamisain district, where hundreds of families now live in tents pitched under the shade of thorny trees along a dry riverbed. Pupils are packed in a cinder-block classroom of about 40 children, more than half of whom have fled the sectarian clashes in Yemen’s province of Hajjah.
Women and children ride donkeys through the wadi to collect precious water, trucked in by aid agencies. The Houthi have shut the mountain passes, the main access route for water supply trucks.
 “I was loading up my car to leave when three bombs hit my house right behind me,” said Yahiya Abdullah, a father of nine.
Abdullah fled, and now his goats and cattle wander through the sand, munching at gorse bushes between the guide ropes of tents supplied by humanitarian organizations.
 “We have nothing,” Abdullah says. “Not enough food, not enough tents, not even a mat to sleep on. No person can live like this with children who are going hungry.”

Al Qaeda-Affiliates' Command Structures Questioned in New Report

By: Anthony Kimery
March 21, 2012
With reliable human intelligence having become even more sparse from within the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) following the drone strike in Sept. that killed its chief recruiter and operations mastermind, Anwar Al Awlaki, a debate has waged among Western counterterror authorities over the internal command structure of AQAP and Al Shabaab, another Al Qaeda-linked terror group that is based in Somalia with which Al Awlaki had forged good relations - including using it as a pool from which to recruit hand-picked operatives.
According to a new report from the Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI), though, counterterrorism analysts who'd speculated that American Al Shabaab commander, Omar Hammami – also known as Abu Mansur Al Amriki - was the clear successor to Al Awlaki “were off the mark."
"Recent machinations should serve as reminders to analysts and commentators alike that jihadist groups - like other militant organizations - are rarely unified, and are often subject to a number of internal and external pressures,” said a statement from HSPI about its new report, Hammami's Plight Amidst Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda's Game of Thrones, written by Clint Watts, a senior fellow at HSPI currently working at the Navanti Group, and Andrew Lebovich, a senior analyst at Navanti Group.
"Hammami on Friday sat alone in front of a flag commonly associated with Al Qaeda and said that the organization for which he'd fought for much of the last five years, Al Shabaab, might be trying to kill him. The video, the first public message from Hammami since last October, caught many counterterrorism analysts off guard,” HSPI said, noting that “the release is an unprecedented public admission of fear and weakness from a jihadist figure. But it has brought to the fore a game of thrones occurring in Somalia as rival Al Shabaab factions compete for power and eliminate their rivals, even as the organization has more tightly joined itself to Al Qaeda's global jihad. Hammami's video confirms not only a power struggle within Al Shabaab, but may also point to a larger battle for leadership supremacy in a post-Bin Laden Al Qaeda.”
This comes as AQAP has strengthened in the wake of Al Awlaki's death, and indications that someone inside Al Shabaab has forged closer ties to Al Qaeda Central's central leaders.
 “While Hammami has long been a stalwart public voice in praise of Al Qaeda and its late leader, Osama Bin Laden, he may have found himself on the wrong side of an internal conflict that already may have cost the lives of Al Qaeda operatives and Al Qaeda-linked foreign fighters in Somalia,” the report says.
Continuing, the new HSPI report says “it is admittedly difficult and dangerous to make sweeping statements about complicated group dynamics based on rumor, innuendo, and isolated pieces of evidence, but if the reports of factional disputes and the killing of foreign fighters prove true, it would make sense for Hammami to be targeted by the group’s emergent leadership. While some reports suggest that Hammami is allied with [Al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi] Godane, his time in Somalia indicates a longer and more durable connection with Godane’s rivals, notably Mukhtar Robow.”
The report’s authors point out that “in June 2011, Somali government forces reportedly killed a longtime Al Qaeda operational commander named Abdul Fazul Mohamed (also known as Harun Fazul), at a roadblock in Mogadishu,” and that the “account of his killing did not sit well with people who knew Fazul’s history as a crafty and skilled operational commander. Recently, scholar Nelly Lahoud postulated that Fazul, who was close to Osama Bin Laden and vocally opposed to a merger between Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab, may have instead been killed as part of a plot by … Godane to draw himself closer to Al Qaeda’s new leader, Ayman Al Zawahiri.”
The HSPI report states that "Hammami’s Al Qaeda links do not seem to have extended past the group’s 'old guard' leadership in Somalia, indicating that Hammami has not been able to make contact with ascendant factions within the group – though to be fair, we cannot know if he has tried. However, we can
clearly see that Hammami has fallen victim to factionalism of one sort, whether in Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, or both. That he finds himself in such a vulnerable position is illustrative of the complexities and dangers inherent in such groups, especially  Al Shabaab, who currently face military opposition from Kenya, Ethiopia, and US drones."
The report concluded that "Hammami’s plea suggests several emerging questions related to Al Shabaab’s operations and new opportunities for undermining the group’s influence. Many new hypotheses regarding Al Qaeda’s relationship with Al Shabaab should be explored."
Counterterror and intelligence authorities discussed the future of AQAP in the wake of Al Awlaki’s killing for the Jan. Homeland Security Today report, After Awlaki. Authorities had also speculated on the future of Al Qaeda Central for the June, 2011 Homeland Security Today cover report, Al Qaeda After Bin Laden.

Court asked to free bin Laden widow

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 21 (UPI) -- Pakistan's high court said it will hear a petition for the dismissal of charges against the Yemeni widow of Osama bin Laden.
Amal Ahmad Abdul Fattah and her five young children have been in custody since last year when the al-Qaida leader was killed at his Abbottabad complex during a raid by U.S. Navy SEALs, the government-supported Associated Press of Pakistan reported Wednesday.
Her brother, Zakarya Ahmad Abd Alftah, filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court to quash cases against his sister and allow her and her children to return to Yemen.
After hearing the case in brief, the court said it would examine the petition Thursday and decide whether to go forward.