Thursday, April 5, 2012

Interpol-wanted fugitive arrested in Yemen

By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A: April 5, 2012- The Security Authorities in the capital Sana'a arrested on Thursday evening a person based on an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).
The Information Center in the Interior Ministry said that the security authorities have apprehended D. Naldon, 32, who is wanted for the American security authorities for a murder crime.
The American citizen was working in the region as a teacher in a language institute.
No more details were reported.

Yemen: Al-Qaida’s new haven

April 5, 2012
U.S. drone attacks may be helping the terrorist group gain sympathy and recruits in southern Yemen
By Casey Coombs
ABYAN PROVINCE, Yemen — After a brief respite in the air assault on al-Qaida militants in Yemen, Sanaa and Washington’s warplanes are again scrambling.
Global PostA five-day bombing campaign mid-March, for instance, killed at least 60 militants across central and southern parts of the country. Most of the strikes — launched from warships, jets and drones — occurred in Yemen’s Abyan Province, a region on the Gulf of Aden that has become the latest and perhaps most important front in the war against al-Qaida.
Here, al-Qaida’s ranks have swelled in the last year, and at least five cities are now controlled by the terrorist group.
Despite the hefty death toll, some think the military assault might be aiding the terror group more than hurting it, sewing sympathy for the militants and anger toward the Americans.
Yemenis who live in these poverty-stricken areas, long neglected by the central government, said that with al-Qaida now governing large parts of the region, some stability has finally arrived.
One local merchant, when asked by GlobalPost what he thought of the new government, said, “Very, very good. Very peaceful. I go to prayer knowing my store is safe. I leave the door unlocked.”
Gregory Johnsen, an expert on Yemen at Princeton University, said the renewed military operations could have unintended consequences. He said the U.S. should focus more on strengthening Yemen’s central government than its military.
 “I think such an approach actually does more to exacerbate the problem of al-Qaida in Yemen than it does to solve it,” he said. “The US counterterrorism strategy of air and drone strikes has also killed dozens of innocent civilians, which has further inflamed public opinion in Yemen and driven even more men into the arms of al-Qaida.”
Abyan has suffered from high unemployment, extreme poverty and rampant illiteracy rates, creating an environment in which extremist groups flourished.
Jaar, the first city in Abyan captured by al-Qaida last year, after nationwide protests shattered Yemen’s divided government, has become the main breeding ground for al-Qaida. It is now governed in a style reminiscent of how the Taliban ruled Afghanistan.
It’s also one of the top military targets of U.S.-Yemeni forces.
In a rare visit by a foreign journalist to Jaar on March 5 — the day after militants stormed a Yemeni base outside Zinjibar, killing more than 150 Yemeni soldiers and capturing 73 more — GlobalPost witnessed civilian life in the bombed out city.
At first glance, Jaar resembles most rural Yemeni towns, struggling after a year of uprisings choked off what few services a corrupt state government was willing to provide. Donkey carts wind through desolate streets piled with trash. Feral cats and dogs root through the garbage. In the shade of bullet-pocked storefronts and vacant buildings, haggard, bearded men drink tea and chew qat — a leafy stimulant widely used in the region.
But in one important way Jaar is different. The black-and-white flag of al-Qaida flies at each entrance to the city, flapping behind Kalishnakov- and grenade-strapped soldiers on motorcycles. Other al-Qaida soldiers patrol the city’s streets in army trucks pillaged from the Yemeni military weeks earlier.
Townspeople said al-Qaida provided them with reliable services, such as electricity, food, water and even healthcare, though officials would not allow GlobalPost entry into the town’s only hospital, one wing of which had been shelled in recent months.
While speaking to merchants in Jaar’s central market, an elderly man with a long red beard asked GlobalPost, “Why American drones?” The sound of the drones buzzing overhead was a constant reminder, they said, of the strikes that could happen at any time.
Others in the region were less supportive of al-Qaida. Some said the group was simply exploiting Jaar’s destitute masses, who are clinging to any form of stability during a time of conflict and uncertainty.
For the United States, al-Qaida’s ability to control Jaar is a matter of national security and it’s military, with the cooperation of Yemen’s central government and national army, has responded in force.
Since December 2009, after a failed plan to detonate a bomb on Northwest flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas day was traced back to Yemen, the US military and the CIA are known to have carried out at least 21 missile strikes here.
The bulk of those strikes occurred in the wake of al-Qaida’s dramatic May 2011 takeover of Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, 35 miles from Aden, a major port city.
Within seven months of taking Zinjibar, militants captured three more cities — Shaqra, Rawdah and Azzan — bringing the total number of al-Qaida-style Islamic emirates to five and setting the stage for the now ramped up airstrikes. CIA Director David Petraeus said in September 2011 that the area had become “the most dangerous regional node in the global jihad.”
Al-Qaida has responded with its own bombing campaigns.
Following the Feb. 25 swearing-in of President Abd Rabbo Monsour Hadi, who had replaced the 34-year rule of Ali Abudullah Saleh after a referendum-like vote, al-Qaida unleashed a string of bomb attacks across the country.
Hadi is tasked with leading the country through two years of democratic reforms, outlined in a Gulf Cooperation Council deal that eased the unpopular Saleh out of office. The controversial deal granted Saleh immunity for crimes he had committed against peaceful protesters at the height of Yemen’s pro-democracy movement.
The world’s No. 1 oil exporter and Yemen’s neighbor to the north, Saudi Arabia, spearheaded the pact with the backing of Washington and the United Nations Security Council.
The three major powers brokered the agreement to calm anti-Saleh protesters and create an environment in which Sanaa’s divided government could reassert control over its southern territories.
Local al-Qaida leaders rejected the power transfer deal outright.
“America aims to steal the fruits of the revolution,” read a statement translated by SITE intelligence group, which was released after Hadi’s inauguration. “America’s project in Yemen will never succeed . . . our operations will reach the American project and its tools . . . wherever they are.”
In his first public statement on the inherited terrorist threat in March, Yemen’s new president rebuked al-Qaida.
 “We are unwaveringly resolved to keep up the fight against al-Qaida and we will chase them to every cache until they are eradicated, no matter what the cost is going to be,” Hadi said, to the delight of his U.S. counterterrorism partners.
But Hadi is facing many more problems than just a resurgent al-Qaida. He is under mounting pressure to reform a military whose highest echelons remain largely in the hands of the former president’s family. And he is charged with turning around a broken economy and securing relief for a worsening famine amid rising food prices, as well as tackling separatist movements in the north and south that are unrelated to the conflict with al-Qaida.
 “At this point,” Johnsen said, “it looks as though Yemen is going to be a broken and weak state where Islamist groups are able to thrive for some time to come. The US can either double-down on its current policy of bombing in the hopes al-Qaida doesn’t attack it first, or the U.S. can completely revise its approach to Yemen and come up with a policy, which would include a strong counterterrorism component that would deal with all of Yemen’s problems — not just al-Qaida.”

101 people killed and wounded over last month

By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A, April 5, 2012- At least 101 people, including children and women, were accidentally killed and wounded throughout playing with guns across Yemen in March.
Yemen's Interior Ministry said in a report posted on its website that 101 people, including 27 children and 6 women, were killed and wounded throughout playing with guns.
The report mentioned that at least 21 people were killed among them 10 children while 80 others were wounded in similar accidents among them 17 children and 6 women.
According to the ministry most of the incidents happened in 16 provinces across the country with 18 incidents in the capital Sana'a, 14 in Dhamar, 10 in Sa'ada, 7 in Ameran, 6 in Taiz, 5 in Aden and Ibb, 4 in Lahj and Sahbowa provinces, while the other incidents happened in the rest of Yemen's provinces.
Recent studies proved that weapons proliferation had drastically increased over the past year in direct connection with the revolution and the need civilians felt to protect their families.
Despite many positive steps which were taken by the Yemeni government in 2007 to curtail weapon-carrying in urban areas, the past two years pretty much rendered all efforts fruitless.
Social violence in the impoverished Republic is now exacerbated by the widespread ownership of weapons.
Although some statistics claim that there are an estimated 60 million weapons in Yemen a more recent and more accurate report cited a figure closer to 11 million in a country of 23 million, which in any case make the weapon per inhabitant ratio still one of the highest in the world.
2,000 Yemenis die every year in ethnic conflicts, according to government figures and gun-related crime is on the increase.
Many Yemeni children who accidentally killed their loved ones while playing with guns
On the other hand, Yemen's Interior Ministry has said that approximately 235 people committed suicide, including 24 children in a decline of 19.6 percent when comparing with 2010 when 292 committed suicide.
According to the ministry, 36 people were committed suicide in the capital Sana'a, 22 people in Taizi, 22 in Ibb and the rest of the figure was in other governorates.
Analysts say that most people commit suicide as a result of the poverty and unemployment in Yemen that faces sever hunger.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP) , five million Yemenis are moderately food insecure and at risk of experiencing further food shortages.
The protests that hit Yemeni in 2011 demanding the ouster of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh sharply pushed up prices. The cost of most essential commodities has risen by 50 percent.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said last year that Statistics indicate that one in three people are food insecure and under-nourished, and more than 50 percent of children are stunted.
A Yemeni economist, Mohammad Al-Afandi, had revealed that poverty in Yemen has raised to 70 percent and unemployment to 40 percent, pointing out the GDP growth rate declined to approximately zero and the reserves of foreign currency fell to $ 4.5 billion.
Yemen remains the poorest country in the Arab world, with a per-capita income of $1,300; almost half of the population lives on less than $2 a day.Yemeni economists expect that the donor conference on Yemen to be held in March in Riyadh, would enable the government overcome economic challenges.

IMF approves $93.7 mln for Yemen's crisis-hit economy

WASHINGTON, April 4 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund resumed lending to Yemen on Wednesday, approving the payment of a $93.7 million loan to the country to address its urgent balance of payments deficit, which has been worsened by a year of political turmoil.
IMF Deputy Managing Director Nemat Shafik said the fund would immediately disburse the full amount.
"A year-long political crisis and civil unrest have taken a serious toll on the Yemeni economy, endangering the humanitarian situation," Shafik said in a statement.
Sparked by street protests in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Yemen was brought to the brink of a civil war that ended the 33-year-rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Yemen, with widespread poverty, is the poorest country in the Arab world.
The IMF approved a $370 million loan for Yemen in 2010, but just a fraction of the money was disbursed before its economic program went off track.
Shafik said the loan would help Yemen deal with pressing financing needs, giving the government time to compile a medium-term economic plan.
She also said donor support was critical.
"Financing needs are likely to remain large as the political crisis has worsened poverty and unemployment conditions and severely impacted tax revenues," Shafik said.

Yemen: 100 al-Qaeda fighters killed in south

Apr. 5, 2012 
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni government troops have killed more than 100 al-Qaeda fighters in the past two days in an offensive against militant hideouts in the country's south, the interior ministry said Thursday.
The military has been waging intense battles in the southern Abyan and Lahj provinces to rout the militants. The area has seen heavy fighting in the past week after two subsequent militant attacks on Yemeni army bases.
The interior ministry said the air and land offensive has rattled the militants, who are trying to regroup near the sea. The authorities vowed to continue their campaign.
The ministry's figure could not be independently confirmed. Earlier figures reported by The Associated Press said nearly 50 militants have been killed in the last few days of fighting in southern Yemen.
The statement gave no other details about the offensive and did not mention any casualties sustained by the military.
Al-Qaeda and other militant groups have taken advantage of Yemen's yearlong political turmoil to overrun large swaths of territory in the country's south, even capturing several key cities and towns there.
Yemen's uprising, inspired by Arab revolts elsewhere, forced longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of office in February. His successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, was later rubber-stamped as president in a nationwide vote. Hadi has vowed to fight al-Qaeda while restructuring the armed forces, in which Saleh's loyalists and family members still hold key posts.
Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is one of the movement's most dangerous offshoot.

South Yemen airstrikes kill at least 10: official

April 5, 2012
ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - Airstrikes by the Yemeni military killed at least 10 Islamists in southern Yemen on Thursday, a local official said, in the latest episode of fighting with militants who have seized territory in the region.
A local official in southern Abyan province, parts of which are controlled by an al Qaeda-linked group called Ansar al-Sharia, said two strikes targeted Islamists in the village of Umm al-Jabalayn, near the city of Jaar.
Residents of Jaar, which is under the control of Ansar al-Sharia, said they saw members of the group bringing bodies back to the city for burial.
The United States has also carried out attacks with drones on alleged al Qaeda members in the region, and last year used a CIA drone to assassinate a U.S. citizen whom prosecutors later said plotted an abortive attack abroad.
The reported strike is near an area where Ansar al-Sharia last week said it killed at least 20 Yemeni soldiers.
Yemen has a seen a surge in violence in the south since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office in late February, vowing to fight Islamist militants who expanded their footprint during political turmoil over the fate of Hadi's predecessor.
Mass protests aimed at ending the 33-year rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh, long a key figure in Washington's "counter-terrorism" plans, erupted in early 2011. The demonstrations were coupled with fighting within an army divided between Saleh's foes and allies.
Washington, which has said it wants to see Hadi reunify the military to fight Islamists, backed his succession under a deal engineered by oil producer Saudi Arabia, which fears a slide into chaos in Yemen could have effects across its borders.

Yemen caught between Ansar Allah and Ansar Al-Shariah

5 April 2012
Mohamed Bin Sallam
Ansar Allah is the military wing of the Shiite Houthis Movement, who fought six wars against Yemen’s army between 2004 and 2010. They currently control and run the northern governorate of Sa’ada, some parts of Hajja and areas within Amran.
Ansar Al-Sharia is an organization comprised of Islamists and jihadists that made its first appearance in Abyan, south Yemen in May 2011. This is when armed men took control of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan, after security personnel abandoned their positions and weapons in the governorate.
Most members of Ansar Al-Sharia are former jihadists who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union and returned to Yemen in 1990. The connection between Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and this new group remains uncertain.
Ansar Al-Sharia is a mixture of fighters that are commanded by Khalid Abdul-Nabi, a Yemeni jihadist who was once part of the Islamic Army of Aden-Abyan. The ‘army’ was a jihadist group headed by Abu Al-Hassan Al-Mihdar, who was executed in 1999 on charges of abducting and killing westerners.
The Islamic Army of Aden-Abyan carried out many terrorist operations in Abyan including bombings and the abduction and killing of western tourists in 1998 before the emergence of Al-Qaeda in its present structure.
In the early 2000s Abdul-Nabi appeared to leave jihad activities and retreated to his own farm near Jaar in Abyan. Here he stayed for about six years theorizing about Jihadist Salafi ideology. In 2005, a top Yemeni official declared Abdul-Nabi fully rehabilitated and living the life of a peaceful farmer.
Abdul-Nabi was arrested along with 28 supposed Al-Qaeda supporters in an operation in Abyan governorate in August 2008. In an apparent meeting with then president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Abdul-Nabi agreed to support the Yemeni regime against its enemies, the Houthi rebels in the north and southern separatists. Abdul-Nabi was released in a general amnesty in early 2009.
With ambiguous attempts by the regime to contain Abdul-Nabi, his followers appear to commit to his ideology and created what was to become Ansar Al-Shariah. The organization announced itself when it seized control of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan.
The nature of the relationship between Al-Shariah and Al-Qaeda is unclear, but Al-Shariah shares many similarities with what is known as Jihadist Salafism. Abdul-Nabi has denied any relation with Al-Qaeda, a denial that sounds authentic. However, his ideological perspective seems to a large extent to be close to Al-Qaeda, especially as his group explicitly endorses the Jihad movement.
Ansar Al-Shariah appears to be the ideological extension of the Jihad movement, that in turn was a natural extension of the Islamic Army of Aden-Abyan previously led by Al-Mihdar.
Abdul-Nabi has recently denied the existence of the Islamic Army of Aden-Abyan in a press interview, a denial that at times has also been repeated by the state. However, the name was in common use in 1990s.
The militants of Ansar Al-Shariah view themselves as better than other militants. Their belief in their own superiority is reminiscent of the Houthis theory of Devine Selection.
The groups of Ansar Al-Shariah and Ansar Allah are opposites in the sense that the former represents Sunni fundamentalism and the other Shiite extremism. However, their way of thinking is similar as both groups tend to use violence to achieve their aims.
Jihadist experience in Yemen
The older jihadists in Yemen have more experience than those who named themselves the Jihadist Youth supported by Saudi organizations. This experience came as a direct result of their participation in the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union.
The original experience was a consequence of being part of the major jihad groups led by Osama Bin Laden and Tariq Al-Fadhli. That experience increased during the1994 civil war in Yemen. Hundreds of former jihadists in Afghanistan took part in supporting the military of Ali Abdullah Saleh against the Yemeni Socialist Party.
Some of the jihadists from the above conflicts joined with Abu Al-Hassan Al-Mihdar, and others with Abu Ali Al-Harithi, who was the suspected master mind behind the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Al-Harithi was killed by a US drone in Marib in Nov. 2002. That assassination can be seen as the real launch of Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Ansar Al-Sharia instead of Al-Qaeda of Jihad
Many analysts claim that Al-Sharia is merely Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula changing its name to become a Yemeni organization. The claim is that the name change will have a positive media impact locally and abroad in favor of the group’s expansion.
Such a change of name may reduce pressure on Yemen to fight the new group, as it is ‘not Al-Qaeda’, which as an ally to the US ‘war on terror’, Yemen is committed to fighting.
A local group, with a local name, will attract less pressure from the United Nations on Yemen. It will become a Yemeni affair, and there will be less justification to intervene in Yemeni internal affairs, as the organization will not play a role in the Al-Qaeda versus the West conflict.
The former leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, had expressed a willingness to change the name of the organization. This suggestion was found in a letter on Bin Laden’s computer, confiscated after his assassination on May 2, 2011.
Bin Laden expressed in the letter that name ‘Al-Qaeda’ was not sufficiently religious, and did not express the message that the group was engaged in a holy war against the enemies of Islam. A name change would also put some distance between the criticism Al-Qaeda had attracted for killing a large number of Muslims.
While the Houthis’ Ansar Allah group expands their military presence in north Yemen, the Ansar Al-Shariah group intensifies their fighting against the Yemeni army in south Yemen.