Thursday, May 17, 2012

Yemeni secessionist dangles pledge to fight al Qaeda

Joseph Logan
May 17, 2012
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Foreign governments should back secessionists who want to recreate the vanished state of south Yemen, because it would crush the Islamist militants who have taken over much of the region, a secessionist leader said on Wednesday.
In an interview late on Wednesday, Ali Salem al-Beidh, last president of the socialist southern state whose 1990 union with the north crumbled into civil war four years later, said the united Yemeni state now fighting al Qaeda-linked Islamists was too dysfunctional to salvage.
"It's a collection of tribal, military, and security cliques fighting over who'll hold power," Beidh said of the state led by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who succeeded Ali Abdullah Saleh in February after a year of unrest.
"They are not capable of building a democratic, civil state. The northern mentality cannot live within a state, whereas the mentality of the south cannot live without one."
Secessionist sentiment is rising in the south, where al Hiraak al Junuubi, a loose secessionist movement, sprang up in 2006-7 around cashiered southern army officers. It leads a protest campaign that security forces have countered with force and, according to Hiraak activists, arrests and torture.
Beidh represents a hard line in the Hiraak which wants the south to be recognized as the sovereign state it was before 1990 in talks over the future disposition of Yemen. Others suggest 3-5 years of federal rule before a referendum on separation.
Germany is involved in efforts to coax southerners to take part in a national dialogue prescribed by the Gulf-brokered deal that saw Saleh give up power. Those talks would address southern grievances within the framework of a unified Yemen.
The uprising last year saw the military split into pro- and anti-Saleh factions that fought each other and tribal militias, raising U.S. and Saudi fears of civil war and a collapse of the state which would embolden the Yemeni franchise of al Qaeda.
U.S. officials say they recently thwarted a plot by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to bomb an airliner, the latest in a string of abortive attacks the group has planned on U.S. and Saudi targets from Yemen since 2009.
Another group, Ansar al-Sharia, flies al Qaeda's flag over swathes of southern Yemen it seized from government forces as the uprising gained force last year, and in March routed Yemeni troops attempting to retake them.
Its advance drew charges that Saleh - long a key to U.S. "counter-terrorism" strategy - had ceded territory to create an enemy he would be needed to fight. Beidh cited the use of Islamists against the south in the civil war as proof of a long-standing relationship.
"This force doesn't just threaten us; it threatens neighboring countries and shipping in the Arabian Sea and any aspiration to civilization," he said.
"We want international and regional powers to wake up to this fact and back us in confronting al Qaeda, to deliver our country from this plague," he said. "With a little international support we could finish off al Qaeda."
Beidh, who has been in exile in Germany and Oman since Saleh's troops crushed southern forces in the civil war, said Hiraak forces were playing a role among regional militia now fighting Ansar al-Sharia in southern Abyan province.
Hadi's government has launched an offensive against Ansar al-Sharia in Abyan, with some participation by military trainers from the United States, which has accelerated its campaign of assassinations by drone strike since Hadi took office.
Beidh acknowledged splits in the southern movement, but said there was consensus on the goal of resurrecting a state which once had relatively strong institutions and better standards of education and development than most Arab countries.
"Ninety percent of southerners, whatever their political affiliations, are in agreement about getting back their state, not secession, because we offered it up voluntarily in service of a greater project, and have been occupied since," he said.
He said he was open to support from the region to advance that cause, including from Iran, which the United States has accused of meddling in southern Yemen to expand its influence.
"Iran is just one of the regional countries, and not the only one present (in Yemen). There's a relationship and interaction with all of them," he said.
"We welcome anyone who is willing to cooperate with us, and prefer that our brothers in neighboring countries, who know us and are the closest to us take the initiative in saving us from this backward occupation."

Yemeni activists launch anti-drone campaign on Twitter

By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A, May 17, 2012- Yemeni activists launched a Twitter campaign online to convince the U.S. to stop using drone strikes in Yemen, which are believed to have killed numerous civilians across the country.
The campaign is centered around the key words “No Drones” and asks web users from all over the world to take action to urge the United States to stop using drones in their fight on terrorism in the Arabian Peninsula.
According to France 24, many web users believe the American drone attacks are in fact counterproductive and only serve to feed terrorism in Yemen. They say that more often than not, civilians are the main victims of the air raids, and instead of carrying out these blind attacks, it would be more productive for the United States to try and help in different ways, by setting up food programs for example.
"British based organization « Stop the war coalition » has posted this video to its YouTube channel. We see Yemeni villagers relate their ordeal of being caught up in a violent air raid. 46 innocent civilians are thought to have been killed in this particular attack, many of them children and women. Moving accounts, in which they also remind the American authorities they should not be fighting terrorism at the expense of local populations," the website reported.

Journalists attacked, threatened, arrested and prosecuted

Thursday 17 May 2012.
Although President Ali Abdallah Saleh was forced to stand down last February, media freedom violations are continuing at an alarming pace in Yemen. The political instability is allowing the enemies of press freedom to act with complete impunity.
“We condemn the violence, threats, arrests and at times grotesque trials that often beset journalists in Yemen,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The new Yemeni authorities must guarantee the safety and protection of all media personnel and must ensure that the prosecutions of journalists stop.”
The press freedom organization has compiled a summary of violations that have taken place during the past three weeks.
Trial of two Al-Jazeera journalists
Two local correspondents of Al-Jazeera, Ahmed Al-Shalafi and Hamdi Al-Bokari, are being prosecuted by the ghosts of the deposed Saleh regime. A complaint was brought against them in June 2011 by then information minister Hassan Ahmed Al-Lawzi, accusing them of working illegally for the Qatari news channel after the ministry withdrew their accreditation in March 2011 on the grounds that its coverage of the uprising and the government crackdown was biased.
Although there has been a change of government and the new information minister, Ali Al-Amrani, withdrew his predecessor’s complaint, an initial hearing in the case against them was held on 14 May. As they boycotted the hearing, the judge adjourned until 21 May and ordered the prosecutor-general to ensure that they turn up for the next hearing.
Reporters Without Borders condemns these surreal proceedings, which are invalid in the absence of a plaintiff. Shalafi and Bokari are being made to pay for Al-Jazeera’s coverage during the uprising. The pro-Saleh forces seemed determined to continue hounding the two journalists.
Shalafi is also still waiting to recover the passport that was confiscated more than a year ago by national security officials – apparently on direct orders from then interior minister Rashed Al-Masri – when he handed it in for renewal. The lack of a passport poses a major problem for him as TV reporter. He is still unable to recover it although the current prime minister has ordered its return and the new interior minister has assured him of his support.
Al-Jazeera’s Sanaa bureau and its employees were repeatedly harassed by the former government, especially at the height of the anti-government protests. With tacit support from the police, a score of gunmen raided its premises on 22 March 2011, removing its transmission equipment. A few days later, the authorities withdrew the accreditation of all of Al-Jazeera’s journalists, who were already the frequent targets of threats and violence.
Journalists and relatives still targeted
Hissam Ashour, the independent weekly Al-Nada’s correspondent in Hadramout province, survived an apparent murder attempt on 16 May. It was the third alleged murder attempt to be blamed on the lawyer of a provincial pension fund that Ashour wrote about last year, accusing it of corrupt practices.
Security forces guarding the main prison in the southern city of Taiz arrested Abou Baker Al-Youssoufi, a cameraman with satellite TV station Yemen Shabab, on 15 May while he was doing a report on the damage from riots by inmates during the past few weeks. Despite having the prison director’s permission to film, he was held for several hours until released on the interior ministry’s instructions. The interior ministry and the prison administration gave him an apology.
Anwar Al-Bahri, a news editor with the Yemeni news agency Saba, was beaten in front of his children by a dozen armed thugs who burst into his apartment in the Sanaa neighbourhood of Al-Hasba on 30 April, terrifying his family and neighbours. After policed arrived, he was taken to Revolution Hospital for treatment to cuts to his face, a broken right hand, and bruises on various parts of his body.
The police managed to arrest two of the assailants, who were put in Sector 5 prison, and then assigned units to patrol the neighbourhood. Nonetheless, it was fellow residents who prevented another attempt by thugs to invade the building on 2 May. The Union of Yemeni Journalists issued a statement holding the interior ministry solely responsible for the second attack and accusing it of “delaying the arrest of the criminals.”
Journalist Mohamed Ali Al-Lozi’s 15-year-old son was kidnapped on 27 April by several unidentified men in a black SUV who threatened and hit him before releasing him several hours later. Lozi reported that three gunmen in a grey saloon car had asked questions about him in his Sanaa neighbourhood earlier the same day.
Wael Al-Absi, a photographer with the Al-Eshtiraki Net news website, was attacked on 24 April in Freedom Square in Taiz, the site of a permanent opposition sit-in. His assailant was reported to be one of the sit-in’s security volunteers who is a member of the Yemeni Reform Rally (an Islamist party) and who has reputation for physically attacking people with different views. Absi, who supports the Yemeni left, was beaten unconscious and was hospitalized with head and eye injuries.
The Sanaa-based journalist Fathi Abou Al-Nasr received death threats by telephone from an anonymous caller on 24 April in connection with articles he had recently written for various Yemeni newspapers and websites.
Abdel Qader Al-Mansoub, a journalist who is currently working on corruption cases in the west-coast province of Al-Hudaydah, was also threatened by an anonymous caller the same day.
Saleh Al-Hamati, a Sanaa-based journalist working for Al-Siyasiyya, was threatened in the latter part of April by one of the assistants of Sanaa’s governor, who reportedly also sent soldiers to his home in his absence to intimidate his family.
Smear campaigns
The weekly Al-Ahale and the daily Akhbar Al-Yom have been the target of a smear campaign by former President Saleh’s son, Ali Abdallah Saleh, who heads the Republican Guard. In a 24 April communiqué, he accused them of spying on military camps with the information ministry’s complicity and of cooperating with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and he demanded that their journalists appear before a military court.
These venomous allegations, which were widely quoted in the pro-Saleh electronic media, were prompted by an article posted the previous day on Al-Ahale’s website claiming that the president’s son owned four Apache helicopters in a military camp in Sanhan, the former president’s birthplace.

U.S. special forces in Yemen

WASHINGTON, May 17 (UPI) -- A group of about 20 U.S. special forces are on the ground in Yemen, helping the government fight insurgents in the south of the country, officials say.
Their work includes using high-tech equipment to help the Yemeni military locate targets, the Los Angeles Times reported. The new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadid, is reported to be more willing to work with the United States than his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down after months of protests.
"There are ways of checking their homework," a senior U.S. defense official said. "They've been trusted partners."
The United States withdrew special operations forces last year because of the political unrest, but said last week they had been returned.
U.S. officials said the military effort in Yemen specifically targets insurgents tied to al-Qaida.
"We're pursuing a focused counter-terrorism campaign in Yemen designed to prevent and deter terrorist plots that directly threaten U.S. interests at home and abroad," said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council. "We have not, and will not, get involved in a broader counterinsurgency effort. That would not serve our long-term interests and runs counter to the desires of the Yemeni government and its people."

U.S. drone strikes kill 3 militants in Hadhramout

By Fatik al-Rdoaini
SANA'A, May 17, 2012-
At least three al-Qaeda militants were killed on Wednesday night in an American drone strike in the Yemeni city of Shibam, eastern Hadhramout province.
According to security sources the American strike rocked a convoy of al-Qaeda militants, killing three passengers in it.
"After a racket hit the vehicle of al-Qaeda militants, there was a series of explosions from a vehicle believed to be laden with explosives," a resident reported.
Meanwhile, battles between Ansar al-Sharia , a terror group linked to al-Qaeda, and Yemeni troops backed by tribesmen have been continued for the fifth consecutive day in Yemen's southern province of Abyan.
A tribal source said that militants fled the scene of the battles in al-Haror district of Zanjibar, which has been witnessing lately fierce battles between Yemen's army forces along with local tribal allies against AQAP in a tempt by Yemen central government to regain swaths of towns seized by the group since the last year.
The source reported that clashes took place in Mothelath al-Kahraba since Wednesday night between the militants and the local tribal committees.
Witnesses said that tens of al-Qaeda militants fled towards Shakera district, while tribal committees vowing to continue their battles to control the whole province of Abyan.
''The whole residents of Abyan celebrated the victory against al-Qaeda,'' a resident in Abyan commented.

Murderer expected to receive death sentence

May 17, 2012
Mohamed Bin Sallam
SANA’A — The Southeastern Capital Court is expected to sentence Abdulamlik Al-Ansi, the Prime Minister’s driver, to death within a few days, a source at the Southeastern Capital Court confirmed to Yemen Times, on condition of anonymity.
Al-Ansi is accused of killing the gate keeper of Exceed Language Institute last Saturday after a heated argument.
 “In order to avoid illegal tribal retribution and appease the deceased one’s family, the suspect will soon be sentenced to death” the court source said.
A Cabinet source told the Yemen Times on condition of anonymity that much of what has been circulated by the news media about the murder is completely false
He stated that various media outlets reported that Al-Ansi is one of the Prime Minister’s guards. However this source confirmed that Al-Ansi only serves as a driver for the Prime Minister’s daughter.
The source further explained that Al-Ansi has been working as a driver with Khaleda, the Prime minister’s daughter, for many years.  Khaleda is said to be one of the main owners of the Exceed Language Institute. She is not facing any charges related to the death.
 “I know this man personally, he’s honest and well respected in the community. He’s never been convicted of any other crimes other than being accused of killing in this incident,”
 “I believe the killing was an accident, but when the judge makes a ruling he will consider all of the information available,” the same source concluded.
The Prime Minister, Mohamed Salem Basindawa stated last Saturday that he called the interior minister and ordered him to arrest the killer. The  suspect was brought in last Monday, according to the Ministry of Interior. 
One of the citizens in the capital Sana’a commented on the incident saying, “we used to hear many stories about killing incidents and crimes taking place during Saleh’s reign, but we never heard of a single time the perpetrator was held responsible.”
 “But Basindawa turned his driver in immediately to the prosecution, proving that the Yemeni spring is showing fruit,” the citizen said
The driver fired several shots in the general direction of the gate, it didn’t appear that he was trying to kill Al Sanabani, but a stray bullet hit him,” eyewitnesses told local media outlets last Saturday.