Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pentagon sending trainers back into Yemen

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Associated Press
The Pentagon said Tuesday it is sending military trainers back to Yemen for "routine" counterterrorism cooperation with Yemeni security forces amid an intensified battle against an offshoot of the al-Qaida terror network.
"We have begun to reintroduce small numbers of trainers into Yemen," a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. John Kirby, told reporters.
Another American official said the arriving troops are special operations forces, who work under more secretive arrangements than conventional U.S. troops and whose expertise includes training indigenous forces. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the subject publicly.
Yemen has been a launching pad for attacks against the United States by the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. On Monday, The Associated Press disclosed that the CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design.
Kirby said the return of U.S. military trainers to Yemen was for "routine military-to-military cooperation." He declined to provide details.
A U.S. military training program in Yemen was suspended last year after then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh was badly injured in a militant attack. At one point the U.S. had between 100 and 150 trainers there. The new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who took over in February, has requested increased U.S. counterterrorist cooperation, including trainers and advisers.
The U.S. also has a substantial naval presence near Yemen. A Marine contingent aboard Navy ships arrived in the area over the weekend on a routine rotation. It includes the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, with about 2,000 Marines aboard vessels including the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima. Also in the group is the USS New York, an amphibious transport dock ship that was built with more than seven tons of steel from the World Trade Center. It is the New York's maiden deployment.

Yemen sees conflicting reports on release of foreign nationals

Chiara Onassis | 8 May 2012
SANA’A: Yemen’s Interior Ministry announced on Sunday in a statement posted on its website that it had managed to secure the imminent release of Saudi Vice-Consul to Aden, Abdullah al-Khalidi and Swiss school teacher Sylvia Abrahat within the next 48 hours.
The two foreign nationals were kidnapped in March by al-Qaeda militants to be then moved to one of the group’ strongholds in the eastern province of Shabwa where tribal sources and the Yemeni Intelligence services said they were being held.
An attack against one its diplomats infuriated Saudi Arabia, prompting an immediate suspension of the issuance of all visas to Yemeni and a ramp up in security in both Aden and Sana’a where the Kingdom have diplomatic missions.
Moreover, al-Qaeda militants announced that they wanted the Saudi Interior Minister to immediately free from jail its imprisoned militants, including several women as well as pay up a hefty sum of money against the release of al-Khalidi.
Although the Minister announced that his country would never negotiate with terrorists, it urged the Yemeni government to take all necessary actions towards the safe and fact release of its diplomat, demanding that a mediation committee bet set in place to begin the process.
Terror militants are now using the kidnapping of foreign officials to pressure the Yemeni government into complying with its financial demands as well as organizing exchanges of prisoners.
Sylvia Abrahart, whose health is said to be deteriorating, recently made an online appeal to her country, asking the authorities to give her abductors what they wanted, several millions of dollars.
Now, only hours after the Yemeni Interior Ministry announced that the tribal mediation committee had eventually reached an agreement with al-Qaeda, finalizing the last details of the foreign nationals’ release, terror militants denied the allegations.

Yemen says unaware of alleged plane bomb plot

May 8, 2012
SANAA: Yemen had no knowledge of what the United States said was a plot by a Yemen-based wing of Al-Qaeda to put a bomb on an airliner bound for a Western country, Yemeni officials said on Tuesday.
US officials said on Monday that an “underwear bomb,” similar to one used in a failed attack on a US-bound plane in 2009, had been seized in the Middle East in the last 10 days.
The officials said they believed the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had planned to use a suicide bomber to detonate the device, without saying where it had been seized.
 “We have no information on the attempted bombing the US authorities have spoken of,” an official in Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s office, who asked not to be named, said.
Another senior Yemeni official said Sanaa was kept out of the loop on the subject.
 “The bomb plot only served US interests and Yemen was once more kept in the dark,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
One US official has said the bomb appeared to be similar to the work of fugitive Saudi militant Ibrahim Hassan Al-Asiri, who US intelligence officials think is AQAP’s main bomb-maker.
AQAP is the principal focus of US concern in Yemen. Washington backed a power transfer deal under which former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, once seen as a vital partner in US counter-terrorism efforts, left office in February.
Saleh gave way to Hadi, his deputy, after more than a year of mass protests against his 33-year rule that split the military and ignited bouts of open warfare between pro- and anti-Saleh factions as well as tribal militias.
An Al-Qaeda-linked group, Ansar Al-Sharia, seized swathes of southern territory during the uprising against Saleh, whose foes accused him at times of colluding with the militants while underlining to Washington that only he could handle them.
The United States, which seeks to kill alleged Al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen with drone and missile strikes, now wants Hadi to re-unify the military and use it against Al-Qaeda.
In the latest apparent drone strike, two Yemeni members of Al-Qaeda were killed in their car in the Wadi Rafad valley in Shabwa province in southern Yemen on Sunday, residents there and a spokesman for the Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Al-Sharia group said.
The residents named the men who died as Fahd Al-Qasaa, who escaped from prison in 2005 and who had been convicted for involvement in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship in the southern Yemeni port of Aden, and Fahed Salem Al-Akdam.
The senior Yemeni official confirmed that the strike was carried out by a US drone but gave no further details.
Islamist gunmen killed at least 32 Yemeni soldiers the next day when they stormed an army post outside the city of Zinjibar, capital of the southern province of Abyan.

Al-Qaeda Yemen plane bomb plot foiled by 'insider'

May 8, 2012
A plot by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to attack a US-bound plane using an updated "underwear bomb" was foiled by an insider infiltrating a terror cell, US officials say.
The seized device is being examined by the FBI in Quantico, Virginia, while the source is said to have left Yemen.
The White House counter-terrorism says the bomb was never an "active threat".
Meanwhile, a senior US congressman has linked the plot to an al-Qaeda leader killed in Yemen on Sunday.
Fahd al-Quso, a senior figure in Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was killed by a drone strike.
Saudi tip
Speaking on Tuesday, White House counter-terrorism chief Brennan would not be drawn on the nature of the operation to seize the device, instead describing the aim of the FBI investigation into the device.
"Now we're trying to make sure that we take the measures that we need to prevent any other type of IED [improvised explosive device], similarly constructed, from getting through security procedures," Mr Brennan said.
Without giving specifics, the US says multiple overseas intelligence agencies were involved in the operation to seize the device
Reports did not detail which foreign agencies the insider was working with.
However, reports have linked the device to a Saudi-born al-Qaeda bomb-maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, previously named as a ley figure in the 2009 underwear bomb plot.
A US intelligence source told CNN the latest plan was thwarted two weeks ago following a tip from Saudi Arabia, heightening suggestions that Saudi intelligence operatives could have been involved.
Senior Yemeni officials say the government in Sanaa has no information on this particular plot, Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday.
As details of the plot emerged in the US, officials said it appeared that AQAP leaders in Yemen had instructed a suicide bomber to board any flight of his choosing to the US with the bomb under his clothes.
However, he had been stopped before reaching an airport.
Reports say no target had been chosen and no plane tickets purchased by the time the alleged plot was foiled.
Christmas Day attack
Speaking late on Monday, Republican Congressman Peter King said late on Monday that the operation was linked to the strike that killed al-Quso.
"I was told by the White House that they are connected, that they are part of the same operation," he said.
Al-Quso was a leader of AQAP based in Yemen, and the US offered a $5m (£3.1m) reward for information leading to his capture or death.
US officials told ABC News that that al-Quso was planning an attack similar to a failed 2009 attempt to blow up a passenger plane.
The alleged device seized from the Yemen cells shares some features with the bomb sewn into the underwear of would-be suicide bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab during that attempt, officials said.
The Nigerian was arrested when his device failed to explode fully while on a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
A US intelligence official said the latest device bore the "hallmarks" of the 2009 underwear bomb, which was built by the Saudi militant Ibrahim al-Asiri.
It seems it is an improved model, with a more effective detonation system; it has no metal parts and probably would not have been detected by most airport security magnetometers, our correspondent adds.
It is not even clear if it would have been found by the body scanners that have been installed in some US airports after that attempted attack three years ago.
In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said air security would continue to incorporate threat and vulnerability analysis, pre-screening and screening of passengers, as well as random searches at airports, air marshals and other unspecified security measures.

Why Ansar al-Asheria succeed easily in their attacks on Yemeni military and security positions?

By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A, May 7, 2012- Ansar al-Sharea, an Islamic group linked to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has lately increased its attacks on security and military bases and checkpoints almost in the Yemeni southern provinces.
As a matter of fact, the group started its operations against government forces since the last year after widespread protests against the ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, before that the group was hidden and it seldom was carried out attacks on the Yemeni military positions.
With almost more than a year of political turmoil al-Qaeda has expanded its existence in Abyan province as its headquarters as well as in Shabwa, Mareb, Hadhramout, Lahj, Aden, and Dhale provinces. They carried out several attacks against Yemeni military and security bases killing and wounding hundreds of Yemeni troops and officers.
The last attack by Ansar al-Sharea or al-Qaeda militants was on Monday when the group stormed a military position in southern Yemen where militants control broad swathes of territory, killing at least 32 Yemeni soldiers, wounding and capturing score of them as well.
Ansar al-Sharea said on Monday that the latest raid was a response to recent statements by Yemen's new President Abdu Raboo Mansour Hadi that he would defeat the militants, who have been emboldened by more than a year of political upheaval.
The last storm was carried out at five am this morning outside the Yemeni city of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, killing at least 32 soldiers. They also had captured a number of soldiers and made off with weapons and ammunition.
The group said that the Monday's attack came hours after a suspected U.S. drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader, Fahd al-Quso and one of his bodyguards in Yemen's southern province of Shabwa.
The attack on the military bases in the southern provinces by al-Qaeda militants is not the last in the series attacks of al-Qaeda and it is not the newest the group actually carried out a similar attack last March when the militants killed about 100 soldiers in a raid on a military base in Doufas city of Abyan province.
The extremists claimed that 'around 100 soldiers and officers were killed while 12 others were wounded and 73 soldiers held captive' they later being released by Ansar al-Shareia, when the Yemeni government paid a ransom for the militants to free the kidnapped, in these attacks as well as looted military equipment.
The question her is: '' Why Anar al-Asheria succeed easily in their attacks on Yemeni military and security positions?"
According to a military expert, Colonel Ahmad Madhkoor, who said that the group depends most the time on their own fighters in the Yemeni military bases, who give them specific information about their bases. ''The elements of the group gave al-Qaeda group precise details about their mission and sometimes they also specify the time of the attacks for them,'' Madhkoor said.
In fact that al-Qaeda has its own spies everywhere as we have seen lately that al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for a string of attacks in Yemen, including an assault on soldiers that left scores dead in the southern province of Abyan and the bombing of a military plane in Sana'a. The group blew up a Yemeni air force military plane in Dulaimi army base that was transporting weapons to Aden and Hadhramout provinces.
Not only in the southern province but also in the northern provinces. Lately, Yemen's Interior Ministry had warned of potential attacks by al-Qaeda fighters in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, and in other provinces.
Madhkoor added that al-Qaeda could not carry out the attacks alone without helping from the inside. Otherwise, the Yemeni troops are not ready to fight against al-Qaeda because they are being easily targeted to the group.
The Yemeni expert reported that there is a potential cooperation between the fighters and Yemeni officials who always don't pay attention of intellectual information of al-Qaeda attacks, and they ease the way for them.
Another possibility is that al-Qaeda fighters are not necessary members in al-Qaeda group, and they are members in another organization such as the Southern Movement, which for Years they seek independence from the north. ''If we see to the name of the deaths in these attacks we can find that most of them are from the north,'' Madhkoor added.