Thursday, April 19, 2012

Yemen: 19 militants killed in military offensive

By AHMED AL-HAJ Associated Press
April 19, 2012
SANAA, Yemen—Yemeni military officials and witnesses say ground troops have advanced on the provincial capital of Abyan province with heavy clashes that killed 19 al-Qaida-linked militants.
The officials said Thursday the troops seized a neighborhood in southeast Zinjibar during the first ground operation in the al-Qaida stronghold since the summer. The Defense ministry in a statement said 19 militants were killed.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the operation was still under way.
The military has been waging a wide offensive against militant positions in southern Yemen. Al-Qaida militants have been trying to regain control Lawder, a town north of Zinjibar, after residents chased them out last summer.

Yemen's Interior: potential attacks against gas facilities in Shabwa

By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A, April 19, 2012- Yemen's Interior Ministry said on its website that it had received unconfirmed reports of a plot by al-Qaeda suicide bombers to attack gas facilities in Belhaf in the southern Shabwa province and security forces were on the alert.
Yemen's oil and gas pipelines have been repeatedly sabotaged since last year's anti-government protests created a power vacuum in parts of the country. Yemen's government has regularly reported al Qaeda plots to launch further attacks, but it has not been possible to confirm the reports independently.
Meanwhile, Yemen LNG said on Thursday that a total of six cargoes had to be cancelled as the Balhaf terminal is still shut down due to a sabotage attack on the LNG pipeline on March 30.
Earlier, the company expected the loss to be only four cargoes but in a new statement the company said six LNG cargoes were cancelled due to the sabotage and it will increase production to compensate for the cancelled cargoes.
 “We will increase LNG production to redeliver as much of the cancelled cargoes as possible before year end.” said Francois Rafin, the General Manager of the Company.
“We are confident in the prompt reinforcement of the surveillance and protection of the pipeline; the mobilization of a new security deployment is already in progress.”
The statement said the completion of the annual plant shutdown at Balhaf will be on 20th April, 9 days ahead of the original schedule.
The shutdown was advanced in response to a sabotage of the gas pipeline on 30th of March, it added.
The 38-inch pipeline carries natural gas from the block 18 in Marib to the Balhaf terminal on the Gulf of Aden.
France's Total gas pipeline to Balhaf was last blown up on March 30, hours after a U.S. drone attack killed at least five militants.
On the other hand, Yemen's Interior Ministry said that it had tightened security measures around Saudi Embassy in Sana'a and its consulate in Aden to protect the embassy and its staff from possible attacks by al-Qaeda militants.
According to the ministry this move came after an al- Qaeda-linked militant claimed responsibility for last month's kidnapping of a senior Saudi diplomat in Yemen's southern sea port of Aden
Yemen's new president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who took office in February vowing to fight al-Qaeda, is also facing challenges from Shi'ite Muslim rebels in the north and secessionists in the south.

Yemeni army kills seven Islamists in south

   April 19, 2012
ADEN: At least seven Islamist militants were killed near the southern Yemeni city of Lawdar on Thursday in clashes between government forces and an al Qaeda-linked group, a local official told Reuters.
The impoverished country slipped into a state of chaos after the outbreak of protests a little over a year ago that culminated in the ousting of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh under a deal brokered by Yemen's rich Gulf neighbors.
A defense ministry news service said in a text message that four of the militants, members of Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), were Somalis.
More than 200 people have been killed since government forces stepped up attacks on the militants whom it accused of assaulting a military camp near Lawdar last week.
Exploiting weakened central government control, Islamist insurgents have taken control of a number of cities in the territory which is close to key shipping lanes in the Red Sea.
Yemen's new president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, is facing challenges from Shi'ite Muslim rebels in the north and secessionists in the south.

CIA Seeks Yemen Drone Strike Escalation

By Jeremy B. White
April 19, 2012
In an effort to expand its campaign of covert drone strikes in Yemen, the Central Intelligence Agency has asked for the authority to target suspected terrorists without needing to establish their identity first.
Yemen has assumed a central place in the Obama administration's counterterrorism push, leading to an expanded use of strikes by unmanned drones that are a critical part of the military's arsenal in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The new authority sought by the CIA, reported the Washington Post, would give CIA operatives latitude to operate in Yemen more in line with practices they already employ in Pakistan.
Drone attacks are divided into two categories: "personality strikes" on specific, high-value terror suspects, and "signature strikes" that involve groups of potential militants whose behavior and gathering places indicate they pose a risk. The CIA is asking for the ability to deploy signature strikes in Yemen.
The tactic carries risks because of the possibility of killing innocent people. The Obama administration initiated a review this summer after diplomats and military officials warned that the signature strikes were straining America's already tenuous alliance with Pakistan. The results were mixed, with some critics of overly aggressive drone strikes saying the CIA retained broad autonomy to launch strikes.
The United States faces a similarly precarious situation in Yemen. A popular uprising toppled former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, a U.S. ally who, in a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, told a top American general that he would "continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours." The White House has been trying to beat back an Al Qaeda offshoot that has capitalized on the instability in Yemen, both by launching more drone strikes and by offering increased military assistance to Yemen.
Complicating the situation is the overlap between Al Qaeda affiliates and local militants targeting the Yemeni government. Many Yemenis are already wary of the United States' intentions, given its history of backing Saleh, and assaults on suspected groups of militants could further inflame an already volatile situation.
"I think there is the potential that we would be perceived as taking sides in a civil war," an official told the Post.
The pace of armed drone operations in Yemen has been accelerating in recent months, including Obama's controversial authorization of a strike on the radical Al Qaeda cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen.

Ghost of war still looms

Yemeni politicians have a brief period to prove they can deliver, warns Nasser Arrabyee
An all-out civil war is still possible in Yemen despite the country having a new elected president. The only thing that has prevented war so far was a Saudi-sponsored Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative supported by the US that led to a peaceful transition of power. Any war in Yemen now will be to the advantage of Al-Qaeda, and will certainly affect Saudi Arabia and the US.
The GCC Initiative formed a unity government, with former president Ali Abdallah Saleh's party having 50 per cent of the ministers of this government. The deal gave Saleh and senior members of his regime immunity from any future prosecution, and Saleh was allowed to continue to practise politics as the head of his party, which is now in coalition with the opposition.
The war might erupt any time if the new elected President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi fails to implement the deal which is supposed to last until February 2014 when free and fair presidential elections are supposed to be held.
If Saleh's party, the General People's Congress, is marginalised in any way, this would mean failure and would lead for sure to civil war. At least half of the 24 million population support Saleh's party which has the overwhelming majority in parliament and 17 ministers of the 34-member cabinet. The new elected President Hadi is still the secretary- general of this semi-secular party.
Former president Saleh warned of any failure in implementation of the GCC deal or any marginalisation of his party. "If the GCC Initiative is not implemented as agreed, then we will fight to the death," Saleh told thousands of young people from his party who marched to his house on Monday. Saleh was clearly referring to himself and his party and supporters who will not keep silent if marginalised. Saleh's son and nephews are still the top leaders of the army and security forces.
The failure may happen from two things: either by marginalising Saleh's party by firing its members from important positions of state one by one, or by amending the GCC deal in a way that would not give Saleh's party 50 per cent in everything and that would not give immunity to the Salehs and their henchmen.
For instance, Naji Al-Zaydi, governor of Mareb, was sacked by the new President Hadi earlier this month, but he is still holding his position under the protection of his tribesmen. Al-Zaydi is saying he is now preventing a possible war between his tribesmen and the tribesmen loyal to the newly appointed governor Sultan Al-Eradah.
"I am not refusing the presidential decree and I am not sticking to power, but I am sure this decree will not work, and I told the new governor who is my friend and the president himself," Al-Zaydi told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The new governor Sultan Al-Eradah is from Mareb also and his supporters are from the Islamist party Islah. Al-Zaydi, whose supporters are from Saleh's party, survived many assassination attempts this year and last year, and he accused the Islamist party of having planned and implemented those attempts.
"Even if I accepted the decree, my tribesmen would not accept and would do the same things that were done to us or worse, to those who were behind assaults against us," Al-Zaydi said, as he pointed to tens of gunmen sitting in the reception room of his luxurious house in the capital Sanaa on Monday.
Saleh's party wants the new elected president to fire the rebel General Ali Mohsen, after he sacked many military officials loyal to Saleh including two relatives, to keep the balance between the conflicting parties. Ex- General Mohsen supported the Islamist party Islah which was mainly behind the last year's protests which led to elections of the new President Hadi.
Al-Qaeda is the biggest beneficiary from any chaos in Yemen. It is recruiting and expanding to control Yemen and turn it into an Islamic state and use it as a launch pad to strike Saudi Arabia and supposedly the US itself.
Four soldiers were killed and 10 others injured in the south of the country in a suicide attack by Al-Qaeda. The suicide bomber, who was killed in the operation, was driving his car bomb in the area of Tharah north of Lawdar, before he exploded himself and his car in the military check point of the 26th brigade in the district of Mukairas, in Al-Baidha province, killing four soldiers and injuring 10 others including four passersby.
Earlier on Monday, Al-Qaeda vowed to implement 10 suicide bombings over the coming days in the southern province of Abyan, where fierce battles have been going on for two weeks now between Al-Qaeda and local tribesmen supported by government troops.
In the area of Al-Ain, close to Lawdar in Abyan province, Al-Qaeda performed the prayer of the dead for 10 young people, in a clear message that these 10 people have decided to kill themselves in suicide martyrdom operations against the troops and tribesmen of the so-called anti-Al-Qaeda popular committees, said the sources who saw the sermons of the prayer. The future martyrs asked for this prayer because their bodies are likely not to be found for prayers and burials.
Meanwhile, and in a signal of defiance, the anti-Al-Qaeda popular committees have started to distribute shrouds to their fighters, in a signal that they are ready to die for their villages and lands and they will never ever let the terrorists occupy their villages.
"If Al-Qaeda has 10 suicide bombers, for us, all our fighters are ready now to die for the sake of our properties and honor, and this is why everybody of us now has his own shroud as a part of his combat kit," said Hussein O, a leader of the anti-Al-Qaeda popular committees.
Al Qaeda has been holding two hostages in the southern province of Shabwah, which is beside Abyan. The first hostage is a Swiss woman who was kidnapped from the western province of Hodeidah last month, and the second hostage is a Saudi diplomat kidnapped from the southern city of Aden late last month. Al-Qaeda is demanding the release of prisoners from Saudi and Yemeni prisons in exchange.

28 airstrikes in Yemen by the US army

By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A, April 19, 2012- According to an article posted on Long war Journal website said that the United States carried out at least 11 airstrikes in Yemen since the beginning of this year against militants in Yemen's southern provinces, killing and wounding scores of militants and civilians.
The website mentioned that three provinces in the south were targeted by US airstrikes just in 2012 with 11 airstrikes, 8 airstrikes in Abyan and Shabwa provinces while 3 others in Al-Baydha province.
The website confirmed that only one of this year's 11 strikes has killed a senior AQAP operative in Yemen. On Jan. 31, US drones killed Abdul Mun'im Salim al Fatahani near the city of Lawdar in Abyan province. Fatahani was involved in the October 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in the port of Aden that killed 17 US sailors, as well as the bombing that damaged the Limburg oil tanker in 2002. AQAP said that Fatahani had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The article reported that the U.S carried out 21 airstrikes in Yemen since the beginning of May 2011. Eleven of those strikes have taken place so far in 2012.
"Since 2002, the US has been conducting a covert program to target and kill al Qaeda commanders based in Yemen. Reports show that strikes have numbered 28 since 2002, with enemy deaths numbering 198 and civilian deaths numbering 48," the article read.