Sunday, July 29, 2012

Gunmen storm Yemen ministry, seize Italian

By Mohammed Ghobari
SANAA | Sun Jul 29, 2012
 (Reuters) - Gunmen kidnapped an Italian embassy security officer in Yemen on Sunday and some 100 armed tribesmen loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stormed the Interior Ministry, demanding to be enlisted in the police force, officials said.
A spokesman for the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome said a security officer who is a member of the country's Carabinieri military police had been seized in Yemen and that a crisis committee had been activated. The spokesman declined to give further details.
A security source in Yemen, who told Reuters the kidnap victim was a diplomat, said he had been near the Italian embassy when "men came by in a car and took him by force".
Earlier, tribesmen briefly held interior ministry employees hostage. They freed the ministry personnel a few hours later but continued to occupy the building, a ministry official said.
The incidents highlighted the continuing turmoil in Yemen despite a peace deal under which Saleh stood down after months of protests against his 33-year rule and was replaced in February by his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The ministry storming was a direct challenge to Hadi's authority. He is trying to restructure the armed forces and stabilize the impoverished Arab nation, where Saleh's legacy still looms large.
The Interior Ministry official said the tribesmen were Saleh loyalists, who were promised they would be enrolled in the police force in return for helping tackle last year's uprising. The promise has not been fulfilled.
"At midday, the armed tribesmen... stormed the ministry building, took control of it and climbed onto the roof with their guns," the official said. "They refuse to leave until their demands are met."
Tribesmen have fought alongside government troops in a U.S.-backed offensive against al Qaeda-linked militants that drove insurgents out of several towns in the south of the country last month. Many tribal fighters also sided with Saleh who was toppled by a popular uprising.
Disgruntled tribesmen often kidnap foreigners and bomb oil and gas pipelines as a way to press demands on authorities.
In April, officers and tribesmen loyal to Saleh forced Yemen's main airport to close for a day in protest at the sacking of the air force commander, a half-brother of Saleh.

Yemeni warplanes bomb two al-Qaida hideouts

July 29, 2012
ADEN, Yemen - Yemeni fighter jets bombed two al-Qaida hideouts in the southern province of Abyan on Saturday, a security official told Xinhua without giving the number of casualties in raids.
The air forces bombed two compounds belonging to the al-Qaida militants near Mahfad town in Abyan province, while they were preparing to launch a fresh assault at government soldiers patrolling the restive area, the security official said on condition of anonymity.
"It was not immediately clear if any of the al-Qaida militants or some of their local leaders were killed in the air strikes. The bombing was in response to Wednesday's al-Qaida attack on pro- government checkpoints," the official said.
A local resident told Xinhua anonymously that "huge black smokes and fire erupted in one of the targeted compounds after military aircrafts fired some rockets on it".
"An abandoned al-Qaida training site was also pounded in the air shelling," he added.
The Yemeni government forces have been fighting al-Qaida militants in the southern province of Abyan for years, and hundreds of soldiers have lost their lives.
In the past two months, a US-backed offensive managed to expel al-Qaida militants from their major strongholds in the southern province of Abyan, which they had controlled for nearly one year during the political unrest in Yemen.
However, the al-Qaida militants still have a strong presence in the Mahfad town and some mountainous areas in Abyan.
Fighting al-Qaida militants in the restive south is one of the challenges confronting current Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has promised to launch a national dialogue to settle disputes among all political factions and to uproot the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida.