Monday, 31 May 2010

Three women arrested in Yemen for terror charges

By Nasser Arrabyee/31/05/2010

The Yemeni intelligence agencies arrested three women for terror charges since the beginning of 2010, said the lawyer of the three women Monday.

An Australian woman, recently converted to Islam, was arrested from her apartment in Sana'a by the Yemeni intelligence on May 15, 2010, said Abdul Rehman Barman, the lawyer of the woman.

The Australian woman, named 'Shaylo Stefens' in her 30s, came to Yemen to learn about Islam and teach English to support herself and her two children, in September 2006, the lawyer said.

The two children, Omar, 7, and Amenh 5, were put under house arrest in the apartment of the mother in the northern outskirt of the Yemeni capital Sana'a.

The children are not allowed to meet any one as the Yemeni guards stand at the door of the apartment.

"I think the security people want to exercise pressure on the mother by separating her from the children to make her talk if she has links with any terror groups," the lawyer Barman told Gulf News.

"I tried to visit the two children yesterday, but I was not allowed."

The babysitter of the two children now is the mother's friend who was also arrested by the Yemeni intelligence for terror charges and was released on February 14, 2010.

This second woman, named Rafat Hussein, from Bangladesh, was arrested along with her brother Sadman Hussein on the same day, February 14th, 2010.

"The brother and the sister were arrested while preparing to leave Yemen on last February, but the sister was released hours after the arrest and they kept the brother in prison until now," said Barman.

Rafat and her brother Sadman came to Yemen late 2009 to study Arabic language in Sana'a. They shortly left Canada where their father had sent them to study.

The third woman was also from Bangladesh and she arrested in Sana'a where she was studying Arabic language on February 19, 2010 for terror charges.

The woman, named Chanofa, in her 20s, was released and immediately deported to her country at the end of March.

"She only informed me on her release after she was deported," the lawyer said.

Yemen may review methods in al Qaeda fight, minister

Source: Reuters, By Raissa Kasolowsky 31/05/2010

SANAA -Yemen may review its methods in fighting militants after an air strike aimed at al Qaeda killed its own mediator and prompted clashes between his kinsmen and the army, Yemen's foreign minister said on Monday.

A government inquiry into last week's strike that killed Jaber al-Shabwani and four others will also investigate whether drones were involved in the operation, Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi told Reuters in an interview.

"If there was a drone, and we don't know, then we have to find out if this was used by the Yemeni security forces or by others, but we don't know how the incident happened. We will have to wait for the results of the investigation," Qirbi said.

Asked if other parties could include the United States, Qirbi said: "Yes."

Yemen, next door to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, jumped to the forefront of Western security concerns after the Yemen-based regional arm of al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the botched bombing of a U.S.-bound plane on Dec. 25.

U.S. officials said last week that the U.S. military and spy agencies have stepped up intelligence gathering using surveillance aircraft, satellites, and signals intercepts to track al Qaeda targets in and around their base in Yemen.

Qirbi said that further action by the Yemeni government in response to the killing of Shabwani, who was also deputy governor of Maarib province where the strike occurred, would depend on the outcome of the investigation.

"There can be prosecutions, there can be political security decisions on the matter. There might also be an addressing of the approach in fighting terrorist groups and terrorism in Yemen," he said.


In the days following the May 25 attack, members of Shabwani's tribe clashed with security forces and twice blew up an oil pipeline running through Maarib.

Officials said Shabwani, deputy provincial governor of Maarib, had been en route to meet al Qaeda members to seek their surrender. A top Yemeni security body expressed sorrow over Shabwani's death, calling him a martyr.

Asked about the strike, U.S. officials have said Washington plays a supporting role by helping Yemeni forces track and pinpoint targets.

Qirbi said he was not afraid of a possible backlash from Yemenis who object to U.S. interference. "This is in line with Yemen's request in fighting terrorism," he said.

"Those who want us help fight terrorism have to help us in providing us with the logistical support, with the training, with the firing power. This is what we need from them, from the Americans and others in our fight against terrorists."

After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the United States and Yemen joined forces to fight al Qaeda, and Washington has kept a close eye on developments in the country.

Yemen's prime minister told Reuters on Sunday that Yemen would not accept any attempt by the United States to assassinate radical U.S. born preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who is wanted dead or alive by Washington and is currently in hiding in Yemen.

Fate of German, British hostages still unknown

Source: Reuters, By Raissa Kasolowsky 31/05/2010

SANAA-Yemen's foreign minister said on Monday the fate of three Germans and one Briton kidnapped in Yemen last year was still unknown after two German girls belonging to the group were released to Saudi Arabia this month.

The release was brokered between Yemeni tribal sheikhs and Saudi Arabia without the involvement of the Yemeni government, which was approached separately by Riyadh, Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi said.

The girls were members of a German family of five belonging to a group of nine foreigners taken hostage in northern Yemen in June last year, of which three women -- two Germans and a South Korean -- were later found dead.

"There is no information at this stage if they are alive or not," Qirbi said in an interview.

"As for the case of the two kids it was a tribal sheikh who communicated with the Saudis," he said. "We were in coordination with the Saudis, not the tribal sheikhs."

There was no exchange of ransom money, he added.

Kidnappings of foreigners and Yemenis are common in the Arab country, often used by disgruntled tribesmen to press demands on authorities. Most are resolved with no hostages being harmed.

Last week, a U.S. couple holidaying in Yemen were released unharmed after spending a day in the captivity of tribesmen demanding the release of a relative jailed over a land dispute.

Diplomats say the case of the nine foreigners, kidnapped in the northern province of Saada where Shi'ite rebels have fought the government on and off for almost six years, was different.

Yemen believes the kidnappers have links to al Qaeda a

The killing of the three women soon after the group was taken hostage and the lack of information on the kidnappers was a sign of deteriorating security in remote areas.

"This case fell outside of any of the patterns. There was no ransom demand, and no claim of responsibility. It was highly unusual," a development expert in Sanaa told Reuters.

Yemen, a neighbour of top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has been a Western security concern since the Yemen-based al Qaeda arm claimed responsibility for a failed December attempt to bomb a U.S. bound passenger plane.

Last month, the group tried to kill Britain's ambassador when a bomber threw himself in the path of his convoy in Sanaa.

The country recently reached an uneasy truce with northern Shi'ite rebels after one of the bloodiest rounds of fighting between the two sides yet, and Sanaa is also facing rising violence between government forces and southern secessionists.

Qirbi said the shock in Yemen in response to the killing of the three hostages may be why nobody claimed the kidnapping.

"I think the kidnappers were in a very difficult position as a result of that because they felt that every part of Yemeni society was against such criminal acts," he said

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Any U.S. attempt to kill Awlaki in Yemen unacceptable, Prime Minister

Source: Reuters, By Raissa Kasolowsky 31/05/2010

SANAA -An assassination on Yemeni territory of a radical Muslim cleric wanted dead or alive by U.S. authorities would be unacceptable, the Yemeni prime minister said on Sunday.

U.S. President Barack Obama's National Security Council recently gave the CIA the green light to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-Yemeni citizen whom they accuse of having links to al Qaeda and who is believed to be in hiding in southern Yemen.

"We will absolutely not accept that," Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Megawar told Reuters in an interview.

"We are a sovereign country."

According to the latest information, Awlaki was still in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa, Megawar said.

U.S. authorities say Awlaki was added to the CIA's hit list after he became "operational" in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which claimed responsibility for a failed plot to blow up a U.S.-bound passenger plane on Christmas Day.

The Nigerian man accused in the attempted bombing met Awlaki while visiting Yemen, and the U.S.-born preacher also had contacts with a U.S. Army psychiatrist who shot dead 13 people at a U.S. Army base in November.

Yemen's foreign minister said earlier this month that Yemen would not hand Awlaki over to Washington, but instead put him on trial if he is arrested.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States and Yemen joined forces to fight al Qaeda, and Washington has kept a close eye on the impoverished country, which borders the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

Awlaki, whose father is a former minister in Yemen, travelled to the country in 2004, where he taught at a university before he was arrested and imprisoned in 2006 for suspected links to al Qaeda and involvement in attacks.

He was released in December 2007 because he said he had repented, but he was later charged again on similar counts and went into hiding.

Megawar said he disagreed with Yemen being described as a refuge for al Qaeda.

"Yemen is not a safe haven for terrorists. Yemen has al Qaeda, we recognise that ... but they are spread out in different areas and are scared as a result of the strict crackdown by the government for all their actions", he said.

"Yes, al Qaeda is present in Yemen, al Qaeda is a risk in Yemen, but there is exaggeration by the media," he said.

Last week, a fugitive Saudi Arabian man who was detained for several years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo until his release in 2006, was named as a senior member of Al Qaeda's Yemen wing, according to a tape by the group.

Megawar said Othman Ahmed al-Ghamdi's appointment as a senior operative was another development in the ongoing fight against militants in Yemen but added, "We have nothing to do with who comes and goes." (Editing by Myra MacDonald)

Calls to kill Americans are against Islam, cleric

By Nasser Arrabyee/30/05/2010

An Islamic cleric said that Anwar Al Awlaki did a great mistake to Islam when he called Muslims in the US army to kill their comrades.

" We heard that Anwar Al Awlaki in Yemen asks the Muslims in the American army to try to kill their colleagues, is there an offence to your religion bigger than this?," The Saudi well-known cleric Salman Al Awdah wondered in A Tv program aired by mbc on Friday.

The Yemeni-American Anwar Al Awlaki, who is in the CIA ' capture or kill' list, called all Muslims in the US army to be like Nedal Hassan who killed 13 soldiers of his colleagues in 2009 in the Fort Hood military base in Texas.

"Nedal Hassan was one of my students, and I am honored by this, and what he did was heroic and wonderful operation, and I call all Muslims who serve in the US army to do the same thing," said Al Awlaki in an internet statement on May 23rd, 2010.

Yemen hunts 60 suspected of kidnapping foreigners

ٍSource : AFP 30/05/2010

SANAA — Yemen is hunting 60 suspects allegedly involved in kidnapping foreigners, the interior ministry said on Saturday, just days after two American tourists were snatched and then released by armed tribesmen.

The suspects, some of whom are wanted for abductions that took place more than 10 years ago, are on a wanted list that includes 65 others suspected of kidnapping Yemenis, a source at the ministry told AFP.

Another 140 suspects have been arrested, most of whom have already been tried, the ministry said in a statement.

Yemen's security forces have been engaged since mid-2008 in a "relentless war against abductions and those responsible for them... the kidnappers being as dangerous as terrorists," the ministry added.

The latest kidnapping took place on May 24, when two Americans and their driver were seized near a popular tourist attraction around 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of Sanaa, with the kidnappers hoping to exchange them for a jailed fellow tribesman.

They were released the following day, though it was not clear whether this was a result of any deal.

Yemen's powerful tribes often kidnap foreigners for use as bargaining chips in disputes with the central government. Of about 200 foreigners seized in Yemen over the past decade, almost all have been released unharmed

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Yemen separatists kill three soldiers

Source : Reuters 29/05/2010
Separatists ambushed two convoys of Yemen's armed forces, killing three soldiers and wounding 11 others, the Defense Ministry website said Friday.

Separately, the Yemeni government reached an agreement with the kinsmen of a mediator killed in a pre-dawn air strike earlier this week, after a series of clashes with Yemeni armed forces, a government official told Reuters.

Two soldiers were killed when their vehicle flipped over as separatists ambushed their convoy traveling through the southern province of Raha, the Defense Ministry website said. Eleven others were wounded.

Another vehicle was ambushed by separatists in the southern area of Jebeil Shams, killing one soldier, the website said.

North and South Yemen formally united in 1990 but many in the south, where most of impoverished Yemen's oil facilities are located, complain northerners have used unification to seize their resources and discriminate against them.

Yemen became a major Western security concern after the Yemen-based regional arm of al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December.

Western allies and neighboring oil exporter Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda is exploiting Yemen's instability to recruit and train militants for attacks in the region and beyond.


The cash-strapped Yemeni government is almost powerless to meet the needs and demands of most of its people in a heavily armed society that is growing increasingly discontent and sometimes takes its struggles to the street.

In the southern Ma'arib province, the government made a deal with the tribe related to Jaber al-Shabwani, the deputy governor of the southern province.

Tribal sources said the government sent them a gift of compensation for the loss of Shabwani, including 200 machineguns, a land cruiser and 5 million Yemeni rial ($22,830).

The tribal custom ended a conflict with the government. Shabwani's kinsmen previously threatened a "harsh response" if the government did not announce the results of its inquiry into the raid that killed Shabwani and four of his entourage.

Upon hearing of the strike, tribesmen clashed with government forces and attacked an oil pipeline to the capital Sanaa. They are now allowing repairs to the pipeline, a government official said.

(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam in Sanaa; writing by Erika Solomon in Dubai; editing by Michael

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

American tourists kidnapped by tribesmen in Yemen freed

Source: Reuters 25/05/2010
An American couple kidnapped in Yemen have been released, government officials have said.
The tourists were seized on Monday along with their driver and tour guide as they drove near the capital Sanaa.
The kidnappers, from one of Yemen's many powerful clans, demanded the government release a jailed tribesman.
The US government had said the kidnapping of the US nationals - a man and a woman - was "not believed to be terrorism related".
Yemen's tribes frequently kidnap people to gain leverage in rows with Sanaa.
"The Americans have been freed and handed over to the mediation committee," a government official told news agency Reuters.
It had been reported that the man the tribesmen wanted released had been arrested in a land dispute.
More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in recent years; most are released unharmed.
Two Chinese oil workers were freed this month after being kidnapped in the south-east of the country.
In another region, however, a German married couple, their infant son and a British man are still missing after being kidnapped almost a year ago. Last week the family's two young daughters were located in a disputed border region by the Saudi Arabian armed forces.

Airstrike against Yemen’s Al Qeda kills mediator and tribesmen hit pipeline

Source: Reuter 25/05 2010
- A Yemeni airstrike targeting al Qaeda missed its mark on Tuesday and killed a mediator by mistake, prompting members of his tribe to blow up a crude oil pipeline in clashes that followed, a provincial official said.
The mediator, who had been trying to persuade members of the global militant group to surrender, was killed instantly in a pre-dawn strike on his car in the mountainous Maarib province that also killed three other people.
"Jaber al-Shabwani, the deputy governor of Maarib, was killed with a number of his relatives and travel companions in an airstrike targeting the Wadi Obeida area, where al Qaeda elements are present," said the official, a member of a local council in Maarib, who declined to be named.
"The deputy governor was on a mediation mission to persuade al Qaeda elements to hand themselves over to the authorities, but it seems that the airstrike missed its target and struck his car, killing him instantly in addition to three companions," he added. Two others were wounded.
The strike provoked clashes between the army and members of Shabwani's tribe, and the tribesmen attacked the pipeline that ferries crude from Maarib, east of the capital Sanaa, to the Red Sea coast, the official said.
"Tribesmen blew up a pipeline that carries crude from Safir to the Ras Isa port on the Red Sea," he said, adding that the pipeline attack was "in response to the killing of the deputy governor of Maarib province."
Yemen, which borders the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, moved to the forefront of Western security concerns after al Qaeda's Yemen-based regional arm claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December.

The United States and Saudi Arabia want Yemen, which is trying to end a conflict with Shi'ite rebels in the north while separatist sentiment bubbles over in the south, to focus its efforts on fighting al Qaeda, which they see as a greater global threat.
Maarib province, where the strike took place, has seen air strikes in the past against al Qaeda's regional wing.
Yemen's allies fear the global militant group will take advantage of instability in Yemen to spread its operations to Saudi Arabia and beyond

Monday, 24 May 2010

U.S.: Kidnapping of citizens not terrorism-related

Source: AP

WASHINGTON -- The kidnapping of two U.S. citizens in Yemen was apparently not an act of terrorism, the State Department said. Spokesman P.J. Crowley said that the man and woman, who were not identified, were taken Monday and that U.S. officials are working with local authorities to gain their release.

Crowley characterized the incident as an example of "'tourist kidnappings' where, for whatever reason, a certain tribe has a particular grievance with the [Yemeni] government and uses the presence of foreigners for leverage," Crowley said.

In the past few years, the al Qaeda terrorist network has also kidnapped foreigners in Yemen.

Two American Tourists to be released within few hours

The two American tourists kidnapped Monday morning by tribesmen in the outskirt of the Capital Sana'a will be released within a few hours, official sources said Monday.

"A security campaign arrived at Bani Mansour area, in Al-Haima Al-Dakhelia district, 70 km west of Sana'a, where the hostages are held, to release them," Al Haima Al Dakhelia district commander, Abdullah Al-Dhobiany, told the Ruling Party website.

The Yemeni translator and driver were also abducted with the American couple. The district commander said that they would be released in few hours, pointing out to the approval of the kidnaper to hand the hostages over to the local authorities.

The kidnappers are from the Shardah tribe, in Al Haima Al-Dakhelia district. They demanded the release of Mahmoud Shardah, member of local council in the district, who is imprisoned by authorities over land dispute.

President Saleh's amnesty welcomed but not enough

Source : IRIN 24/05/2010
In a televised speech on the eve of Unification Day, commemorating the merger of northern and southern Yemen on 22 May 1990, President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced an amnesty for all imprisoned southern separatists and Houthi rebels in the north.

"On this immortalized national occasion, we order the release of all those detained on charges of rebellion in Saada and outlaws [southern activists accused of secession] in some districts of Lahj, Abyan and Dhalea governorates. We hope they benefit from this amnesty and be good citizens," he said, without clarifying when it would come into effect.

The move was welcomed by Houthi rebels and southern activists, but analysts say it is not enough to end unrest in the country.

“The amnesty does not mean everything will be fine,” senior Yemeni journalist Nasser al-Rabee told IRIN. “To end the conflicts, the president needs to solve the other main issues. The most important for the south is restoring the genuine partnership between south and north politically and economically. For the rebels [in the north], they must be reintegrated into society and political parties.”

Saleh's government is battling several issues, including political unrest in the south, rebellion in the north, armed tribesmen who periodically kidnap foreigners for ransom or to blackmail the government, and al-Qaeda operatives who target national and foreign staff and interests.

3,000 detainees

A security source told IRIN on condition of anonymity that nearly 3,000 people were in undisclosed jails on charges of links with the northern rebellion or southern secession attempts.
"The figure includes journalists, whom the government accuses of supporting either the rebellion or secession through their writings," he said.
Officials of the General People's Congress (GPC), the ruling party, described the amnesty as a turning point in the country's political life.
"On this occasion, President Saleh wanted to turn over a page of the past, open a new page, and move to a new stage of constructive national partnership,” Tariq al-Shami, GPC spokesperson, said.
Houthi supporters in the northern governorate of Saada, where a fragile ceasefire between the army and rebels has held since 11 February, welcomed Saleh's initiative, which they said would contribute to restoring peace and stability and bring final closure to the intermittent war that began in 2004.
Mohammed Abdussalam, spokesman for the Houthis, said that while many detained rebels were released immediately after the 11 February ceasefire was announced, more than 1,000 Houthi followers were still in detention, some since 2004.
"We hope the authorities demonstrate real intents and release the rest of the detainees," Abdussalam said.
In the south, where most of Yemen's oil facilities are located, residents complain about revenue-sharing, corruption and political rights. This has led to a rising southern separatist movement that has grown increasingly violent.
Tareq al-Fadhli, a senior Southern Movement leader, also welcomed Saleh’s amnesty, but said it is not enough to address southern concerns.
“The government must undertake to stop quelling any peaceful protests by citizens against poor living conditions. It should return plots of land grabbed by influential officials to their real owners in the south,” he told IRIN.
On 21 May, former vice-president Ali Salim al-Biedh, who has been in exile since Yemen’s civil war in 1994, urged the UN to send a fact-finding committee to southern Yemen, as he accused the government of trying to cleanse the Southern Movement.
The Yemen Post quoted him as saying: "It is the responsibility of the UN and the international community, particularly the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, to take serious action towards the case of south Yemen based on respecting the will of the people for independence.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Manhunt will continue until Al Awlaki gets arrested or surrenders

Source: Yemen’s official news agency (Saba) 23/05 /2010
SANA'A, May 23 (Saba) – Yemen will continue the manhunt for Anwar al-Awlaki, a most wanted terrorist, until he is arrested or he surrenders, head of the National Security System has said.
We can't arrest someone based on just accusations but after the authorities found out the man was involved in terrorism, the search for him was expanded, Ali al-Anesi, who is also director of the Presidency Office, said.
He also affirmed that the war against al-Qaeda across the country is continuing directly and indirectly.
Moreover, al-Anesi pointed to the botched suicide attack that targeted the UK's ambassador to Yemen in late last month, saying the attack was a desperate attempt of al-Qaeda which has received devastating blows during terror operations in the south and north.
Some suspects involved in the attack were arrested and investigations are ongoing.
Yemen has not been and never will be a safe haven for terrorists, however, Yemen remains a strong and active ally in the war on terror, he said, adding that nothing can make Yemen swerve from fighting terrorism and extremism or can affect its relations with other countries.
Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico of Yemeni origin, is wanted by the U.S. following the failed attack on a U.S.-bound passenger jetliner on Christmas Day last year by Nigerian Omer Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Recently, the U.S. has said that the man was wanted dead or alive, but Yemen insists he is now a terrorist wanted by the national authorities. Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi has recently said that the man should be tried, once he is captured, in his homeland after he was found involved in terrorist activity

American-Yemeni cleric advocates killing of US civilians

Source: AP 23/05 2010
An American-Yemeni cleric whose internet sermons have helped inspire attacks on the US is advocating the killing of American civilians in a new Al Qaida video.
Anwar Al Awlaki has been singled out by US officials as a top terrorist threat and has reportedly been added to the CIA's list of targets for assassination despite his American citizenship.
The US-born Al Awlaki moved to Yemen in 2004 and is in hiding there after being linked to the suspects in the November shooting at an Army base in Fort Hood, Texas, and the December attempt to blow up a US jetliner bound for Detroit.
In a video posted on Sunday, Al Awlaki justifies civilian deaths by accusing Americans of intentionally killing a million Muslim civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Seperatist leasder wants UN inquiry and Saleh calls for unity government and pardons separatists and rebels

Source AFP and Reuters 22/05/2010
The man who led South Yemen's short-lived secession in 1994 asked the United Nations on Friday to send a commission of inquiry into what he said was the people's right to self-determination.
Ali Salem al-Baid said the UN commission should recognise "the right of the inhabitants (of South Yemen) to independence and to the reestablishment of their sovereign state with Aden as its capital."
He said in a statement ahead of Saturday's 20th anniversary of the country's first unification that separatists had "set next year as a target for independence."
South Yemen was independent from the British withdrawal in 1967 until it united with the north in 1990. An attempt to break away again in 1994 sparked a short-lived civil war that ended with it being overrun by northern troops.
Baid was vice president of unified Yemen in May 1994 when he declared independence, before going into into exile in July when northern troops entered Aden.
"The occupation regime has totally failed to bend the will of our valiant people... sixteen years after the historic decision to break with that regime," he said, referring to the 1994 secession.
He alerted the Arab world, particularly nearby Gulf monarchies, of the potential for what he called "catastrophic consequences" in Yemen, saying their "preventative intervention was an urgent requirement."
Pro-independence demonstrations have multiplied in the south in recent months amid a worsening economic situation and charges of discrimination in favour of northerners.
On his part, the president Ali Abdullah Saleh granted amnesty to imprisoned northern Shi'ite rebels and southern separatists Monday, and offered his opponents the chance to take part in the troubled country's political process.
"We welcome national partnership with all political forces in light of the constitution and law, and within the framework of a collective agreement," Ali Abdul Saleh said in a speech marking the 20th anniversary of Yemeni unity.
Saleh's offer is the furthest he has gone in his bid for reconciliation.
In his speech, Saleh said "a government could be formed from all influential political forces represented in the parliament."
North and south Yemen formally united in 1990 but many in the south, where most of impoverished Yemen's oil facilities are located, complain northerners usurp the south's resources, warp its identity and deny southerners' political rights.
Sanaa is struggling to maintain a fragile truce with northern Shi'ite rebels and curb a rising southern separatist movement that has grown increasingly violent.
Impoverished Yemen, neighbor to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has come under international pressure to quell domestic conflict and focus on fighting al Qaeda.
The global militant group's Yemen-based arm claimed responsibility for a failed bomb attack on a U.S.-bound plane last year, and for a suicide attack in April that failed to kill British ambassador to Yemen, Tim Torlot.
"On this great national occasion we give our directives to release all detainees imprisoned for sedition among the Houthis (Northern rebels) in Saada and also detainees who violated the law in some (southern) directorates in the provinces of Lahaj, Abyan and al Dalea," Saleh said.
Northern rebels recently said 600 from their ranks have been detained, while southern oppositionists say 108 of their members are being held. The government says it has no official record of detainment numbers for either group.
Diplomats say previous talk offers were not followed by concrete action to address oppositionists' complaints. Saleh may have been trying to pre-empt such criticisms by releasing detainees.
Calling for participation in national dialogue from political organizations "inside and outside the homeland," Saleh said such actions "reflects our keenness to turn over a new page.Last year talks stumbled when Sanaa declined to include northern rebels and southern secessionists. (Reporting by Mohamed Sudam in Sanaa and Erika Solomon in Dubai, writing by Erika Solomon, editing by Matthew Jones)

Friday, 21 May 2010

Yemen president extends olive branch to the opposition

Source: AFP

TAEZ, Yemen — Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Friday extended an olive branch to the opposition, offering to form a national unity government and announcing an amnesty for imprisoned southern separatists and Shiite rebels.

In a televised speech ahead of Saturday's 20th anniversary of Yemen's unification, Saleh invited all political groups inside and outside the country to a "responsible national dialogue, within the framework of the constitutional institutions."

"According to this dialogue, it is possible to form a government of all the influential political parties represented in the parliament," said Saleh, speaking in the city of Taez, 230 kilometres (140 miles) southwest of Sanaa.

Saleh said his government would "release all those who were arrested."

He said the amnesty would apply to "all outlaws" -- a reference to the southern separatists, and "anti-government elements who were arrested" in the north, where the Shiite rebels are based on the border with Saudi Arabia.

The pardon would affect an estimated 800 prisoners linked to the southern separatists and about 2,000 Shiite rebels or sympathisers in the north.

Saleh said that the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), which is agitating to re-establish south Yemen as an independent state, would be a principal partner in the political dialogue.

The YSP was the main partner of the May 22, 1990 unification with the north, but it is now in opposition and most of its leaders live in exile.

Other major opposition parties in parliament include the Islamist Al-Islah party, popular among tribesmen who form the backbone of Yemen's traditional society.

Pro-independence demonstrations have multiplied in the south in recent months amid a worsening economic situation and charges of discrimination in favour of northerners.

South Yemen was independent from the British withdrawal in 1967 until it united with the north in 1990. An attempt to break away again in 1994 sparked a short-lived civil war that ended with it being overrun by northern troops.

In a gesture of appeasement, Saleh declared a general amnesty for ""all" prisoners in the country with ties to the southern separatists or to Shiite rebels in the north.
After the Zaidi Shiite rebels first launched their uprising in 2004, there were five lulls in the fighting before the government launched a major offensive last August that ended with a truce in February.

The fighting reportedly killed thousands of people and displaced 250,000 more.
Saleh's government is battling a raft of challenges in the Arabian Peninsula's poorest country.
These include the southern and northern rebellions, restless armed tribesmen who periodically kidnap foreigners for ransom, a resurgent Al-Qaeda and Western pressure to quash the Islamic radicals.

Al Qaeda appeals to women to fight in Yemen

Source: Agencies 21/05/2010)
The Al Qaeda has appealed to Muslim women, particularly those in Saudi Arabia, to travel to Yemen and wage jihad. The appeal was made by Wafa al-Shahri, wife of Al Qaeda's second in command in Yemen, Said al-Shahri. Wafa al-Shahri was directing her message in particular to Al Qaeda colleagues in Saudi Arabia.
Her appeal was published in the latest issue of the online magazine “Sada al-Malahim”, the AKI news agency reported Thursday.
“Those of you who are religious should immediately come to Yemen," she wrote. "If your men folk are not able to defend you, come here where you will be protected.
“In Yemen we have found men, among Al Qaeda militants and members of local tribes, who have helped us."
The young woman admitted to having led a terror cell, uncovered by Saudi security services March 24 in al-Bureida. At least 113 people were arrested.
Wafa al-Shahri, whose battle name is Umm Hajir al-Azdi, is wanted by Saudi authorities.
Before her marriage to the deputy leader of the group, she had been married to two other Al Qaeda militants. The first husband was Saudi Al Shaia al-Qahtani, whom she divorced, while the second was Abdel Rah
man al-Ghamidi, killed by royal police at Taif in 2004.
Wafa married Said al-Shahri two years ago, soon after he had been released from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba

Unity between Hopes and Concerns

By Ashwaq Arrabyee

The 20th anniversary of Yemen Unity comes this time in more troubled circumstances facing Yemen than ever before. Whilst the official statements and speeches about the achievements of Yemen Unity are increased, some concerns have begun to surface over the current situation of Unity.

Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani, chairman of the Shura Council, said that the Yemeni unity is not in danger and it is protected by Allah and Yemeni people.

This celebration of this anniversary embodies the strong will of the Yemenis and their ability to achieve strategic and historical objectives and to confront malignant power and abort its destructive projects and protect the revolution, unity and democracy, Abdul Ghani said in an interview with the official Al-Methaq newspaper.

He confirmed that there is regional and international political and economic support for Unity of Yemen. This is a strong indication on the sacredness of Unity and clear support for choice of the Yemeni people in Unity, democracy and development.

He stressed that the southerners' demands are legitimate but exploited by separatists.
"The demand issues are considered legitimate by the State, but they were exploited by some elements that showed the hatred against the nation, Unity, security and stability. These sabotage acts carried out by those elements do not represent the will of Yemenis in the southern provinces as it reflects the malignant goals and objectives of the separatists received instructions from overseas."

On the other hand, some political activists expressed their disappointment from the current situation and the objectives achieved by the 20-year old Unity.

Dr. Moahmmed Abdul Malek Al-Mutawakel, assistant secretary general of the opposition party, federation of popular forces, said the Unity does not meet the objectives for which it was established.

He warned from this 'tragic' situation which does not protect unity saying "the current tragic situation deepens the rift between the sons of the one country and threatens the unification culture." He added that those who can’t combat injustice can't not protect the unity.

Unity and Democracy

Some political activists stated that the unity faced a number of crises which lead to shrinking democracy.

The unity and democracy are interrelated but the two leaders signing on the Unity Agreement were governed by a culture of totalitarian and autocracy which rejects the partnership with other. This culture renders the unity one of its most important pillars, Al Mutawakel said.

The war in 1994 between the two parties of Unity completely killed the unity of dialogue and democracy, he Added

Dr. Mohammed Al Dhaheri, professor of political science in Sana'a University, said the Yemeni Unity is the most precious unity in the world but it failed.

The State of Unity suffered from a number of complicated crises the main of which is that the authority started the separation between the unity and multi-party system and democracy in return of wealth, he said.

He confirmed the importance of reviewing the path of Unity as the only way to reduce errors and to regain the confidence in the Unity.

Unity is a means not an end

Al-Dhaheri stressed that the Unity is not an end but a means and it is not sacred. He called on all Yemenis to differentiate between the political system and Unity and to protect and defend unity without sacredness or lessening of importance of the Unity.

He demanded the opposition to raise the sense of Unity among its cadre and to detect the real dangers that threat the Unity.

The observers are expecting new things in the president's speech on this occasion. The president said last week that he will 'turn over the pages of the past and open a new page'.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Al-Maqaleh receives presidential pardon

By Ashwaq Arrabyee 20/05/2010

The Yemen journalist and political activist Mohammed Al Maqaleh received presidential pardon after being accused of collaborating with the Al Houthi rebels and publishing false reports, security sources said Thursday.

Residential instructions were issued to close the file of Al Maqaleh permanently, the army 26 September quoted the source as saying.
Consequently, the lawsuits filed against Al Maqaleh will be canceled and his ongoing trial will be frozen, the sources added

The pardon coincided with the 20th anniversary of Yemen Unity.

Mohammed Al Maqaleh, editor of the opposition Socialist Party's website, was detained in September 2009 and released in February 2010, but his trials continued.

The Yemeni Journalist Syndicate appealed the president to release all arrested journalists on the occasion of 20th anniversary of Yemen Unity.

"We are expecting from the president Ali Abdullah Saleh to make 20th anniversary of Yemen Unity as a national day for rights and liberties," The YJS said in a statement.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Chinese hostages released in Yemen

Source: Agencies 19/05/2010

Sana’a, Yemen, May 19 ( Pal Telegraph, by Anwar Al-Shoaybi)- Two Chinese oil company workers held hostage on Sunday by separatist militants in the eastern province of Shabwa were released unharmed , security sources reported on Tuesday.
The two men, who worked for an oil drilling company, were taken by their captors to a mountaintop, some 40 km away from the area where their company operates.
Yemeni security officials had accused separatist militants of orchestrating the abduction to press authorities in a dispute over a criminal case.
The abductors were requesting reparations for a fellow tribesman wounded in crossfire with security forces at a highway checkpoint last week.Both workers safely arrived in Attaq city, the provincial capital of Shabwa, according to the sources.
Disgruntled tribesmen have often abducted foreigners in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country to press for demands from authorities.
Most of those abducted have been released unharmed, but in 2000 a Norwegian diplomat was killed in crossfire and in 1998 four Westerners were killed during a botched army attempt to free them from Islamist militants who had seized 16 tourists. Yemeni tribesmenhas faced increasing unrest by militants seeking the re-establishment of southern Yemen as independent state.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Two out five German hostages rescued in Yemen

Source: Agencies 18/05/2010
Saudi Arabia's intelligence forces have freed two German girls kidnapped nearly a year ago with their family in neighbouring Yemen.
The two children were part of a family of five, abducted along with four other people in the northern region of Saada last June.
Two German women and a Korean woman were found dead soon after.
Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, said on Tuesday that the two girls were in relatively good health and would return home on Wednesday.
"The two girls are now in safe hands with the Saudi authorities," said Westerwelle.
"Considering the circumstances they are doing well."
Mansour al-Turki, a Saudi Arabian interior ministry spokesman, said Saudi intelligence forces, coordinating with Yemen, freed the two children along the Yemeni border.
He gave few details on the operation or on the fate of the other family members.
Westerwelle said he remained concerned about the three other German citizens who were abducted.
In December, Yemen's deputy defence minister accused al-Qaeda of the kidnapping

Monday, 17 May 2010

Mission to free Chinese oil workers kidnapped in Yemen

Source: BBC

Yemeni forces have launched an operation to free two Chinese oil workers kidnapped on Sunday.

The two Chinese men and two Yemeni colleagues were taken by tribesmen in the eastern Shabwa region.

Yemen's powerful tribes frequently kidnap people in order to bargain with the central government in disputes.

Yemen, the Arabian peninsula's poorest country, is currently battling a resurgent al-Qaeda and secessionists in the south.

The Chinese oil men were kidnapped after a tribesman from the Laqmoosh clan was killed by police in a nearby checkpoint, reports said.

The governor of the region Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi said the kidnappers should give themselves up.
"They should release unconditionally their hostages and surrender," the defence ministry's information website said.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Unity or separation in Yemen?

Aden- By Nasser Arrabyee/15/05/2010

On May 22, the Yemenis will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the unity between the South and the North. The President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he would deliver a speech on this occasion to open a new chapter in Yemen's history and let bygones be bygones.

However, calls for separation by disgruntled groups in the south have been in rise recently.

The hardliners of separatists say the north is occupying the south and they will struggle for independence.

The moderates and politicians want only to return to the peaceful unity, which they say, ended by the civil war of 1994 that was only four years after the unity was proclaimed.

The real problem between the south and the north started after this war, which portrayed the north as a winner and the south as a loser.

Tens of thousands of military and security people from the southern army were retired or marginalized after that bloody war. The government formed committees fix the problems of the retired people and it said all retired people were returned to their jobs and their rights were given.

The lands, which were nationalized by the Socialist Party, which ruled the south before unity, were redistributed unfairly after the war, according to the activists of the southern movement.

Most of these lands went to corrupt officials, mostly from the north. An official report issued by a fact-finding committee said 15 corrupt officials were behind the problem of the lands in the south. The corruption in the issue of the lands and the issue of the military and security persons from the former southern army who were marginalized were the main factors behind the southern movement according the observers and the movement activists.

Furthermore, observers say the issue of the lands was even more complicated because of two things: the nationalization after the Socialist Party took power in the south early 1970s and the redistribution of the same lands after the war of 1986 between two Socialist factions. The faction that lost the war of 1986 went to the north of Yemen.

The losing faction led by Ali Nasser Mohammed, the President of the south before the 1986 war , who is now in exile in Syria, was marginalized when unity was proclaimed in 1990 by the northern President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the southern leader of the winning faction Ali Salem Al Baidh.

However, four years later, another war erupted between the two partners of the unity which ended with the defeat of the secessionists led by Ali Salem Al Baidh who was exiled to Oman where he spent about 15 years silent before he returned to lead the secessionists from Germany in April 2009.

After the war of 1994, the faction of Ali Nasser Mohammed was given the upper hand to deal with the issue of lands in the south.

The Gulf News correspondent visited the southern provinces of Yemen where he met representatives of separatists, leaders of the oppositions, government officials, and independent and normal people to know what's happening in the south nowadays.

"They (the Sana'a regime) declared the war on the south in April 1994, that war ended the peaceful unity," said Kasem Dawoud, the Aden secretary of the Socialist Party, which ruled the south before unity.

Dawoud accused the President Saleh's regime of using Al Qaeda against them in the all-out 70-day war of 1994.

"The regime brought Al Qaeda from Afghanistan to fight us, and they are still allies until now," He said in an interview.

When asked why the south movement only started in 2007, Dawoud said they were waiting for reforms, "correction of the path of unity, and removing the impacts of the war."

"Unity is the dignity of Yemenis, but we need now a new format for it," He said.

"The solution now is the return to the genuine partnership agreement on which the peaceful unity was proclaimed in 1990," said Dawoud who refuses separation but also refuses the current unity.

The separatist groups, although receiving support from a separatist group of the outside opposition, they do not have a unified internal leadership. They call themselves peaceful movement despite the repeated clashes between them and the security forces.

Many northerners were killed by such groups only because they were northerners, and many shops and other properties of people of northerner origins were plundered and burnt, since the movement started in April 2007.

Zahra Saleh, 32, is an activist and leading woman within the disgruntled groups that call for separation.

The holder of bachelor degree (BA) unemployed since her graduation five years ago, Zahra said the separatist groups would use the weapons to restore their former southern state if peaceful struggle does not work.

"What we want is our former state of the south. We will use the weapons if injustice continues; we can purchase the weapons from the army," said Zahra who was completely covered in her black veil 'Sharshaf'.

She only agreed to make the interview in a secret place because she was under strict monitoring as she said.

However, the normal people in the street of Aden city have different views from those of the politicians who talk about the correction of unity path and removing the impact of the war and those groups who call for separation even by force.

The taxi driver Yasser, 30 said," We do not believe the separatists, we know them well, if they separated they will return to killing each other, their history is bloody."

The separatist groups now are divided into the same two divisions at least which their Socialist party fell into in January 13, 1986 when a war between two factions killed more than 10,000 people including most of the top socialist leaders.

The high school student, Mohammed, 18 said, "We are with the unity, but there are problems that must be fixed."

Jamail Al Laithi, 42, a government employee, with only 150 US dollar monthly salary said," We do not want separation, but we do want a new government, and a new president."

The government officials keep saying these groups who call for separation are very few and do not represent the majority of south which is about 5 million out of the 24 million population of the whole country.

Some independent organizations and individuals also play down the impact of these groups as individuals who lost personal interest.

Rashad Sultan, secretary general of the Yemen First Organization, a recently established local NGO that supports unity said, "The separatists do not represent the south, they are only small groups of those who lost their interests."

"We do not have exact statistics, but you could estimate yourself if I told you that the south is about 60 districts in its all six provinces and those groups are only in four districts in Al Dhale'e, Lahj, and Abyan provinces," said the secretary of the pro-government organization.

Mr. Sultan said in an interview in his office in Aden, the protests in the south would disappear if economic situation improved.

"The reason behind the movement is economic, if this issue is fixed, you will not see anyone protesting," he said.

Aden is no longer open as it was before the unity. Restrictions on women, for instance, are even more than the relatively conservative northern city of Sana'a. Religious extremism has been in rise in this city, which was always famous for tolerance and coexistence of various cultures and religions.

Khaled Wahbi, director of Sairah district in Aden city, said there are "dark forces" trying to fight everything modern under the justification of fighting vice and protecting virtue.

The majority of people in Aden, however, refuse such extremism according to the government official Wahbi.

"Some religious extremists, for example, destroyed two a few months ago all the lights we made along the roads to the historic fortress of Sairah, they do not want to see men and women spending good time on that roads," said Wahbi in an interview in his office in Sairah.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Yemeni Deputy PM Survives Ambush By Gunmen In Troubled Province



"The armed militants opened fire on the convoy carrying Deputy Prime Minister Abu Ras and some top security officials in the town of Azzan in Shabwa province," said the official, who asked not to be identified.

"Abu Ras along with the other officials and escorts survived unscathed," added the official.

Declining to provide further information, the official said the targetted government officials were engaged in talks with Awalik tribe, which is believed to shelter the wanted Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

The attackers suspected as members of an al-Qaeda offshoot, the official said.

"The government has made progress in talks with Awalik tribe to hand over Anwar al-Awlaki, the most wanted man, who has dual citizenship of America and Yemen," the official said.

Awlaki, who is reportedly a fugitive in his Yemeni hometown of mountainous province of Shabwa, was put into the "capture or kill" list by the United States last month over allegedly involving in two terrorist attacks last year.

The 38-year-old cleric became famous last year after it emerged that he had communicated extensively by e-mail with Major Nidal Hasan, the U.S. army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, last November.

Awlaki, also allegedly having ties with the 9/11 hijackers, has been linked to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jet last Christmas with explosives in his underwear.

On April 15, Yemen's Defence Ministry said that Yemeni security agencies were currently tracking Awlaki.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

UNICEF expresses concerns over Houthi use of schools for military purposes

Al Houthi denies UNICEF's accusations

By Ashwaq Arrabyee

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) condemned using schools by Al Houthi rebels as sites for military operations in the northern Yemeni governorate of Saada.

“Schools should be zones of peace where children can learn and thrive. Using them for military or inappropriate political purposes is a violation of children’s rights and of international humanitarian law,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Representative in Yemen, in a statement released Wednesday following reports that some schools were occupied by armed men.

“Children must be allowed to resume their schooling immediately,” Mr. Cappelaere said.

The siege comes two months after the official end to hostilities between Government forces and rebels in the region which uprooted nearly 300,000 people in recent years.

A ceasefire “brought hope, allowing children to go back to school” and recover a sense of normalcy, Mr. Cappelaere said.

"The rebel occupation of schools is preventing children from attending classes in a country that already has the lowest school enrolment rates in the region," he said.

He called on parties throughout Yemen to ensure the right to quality education.

“Depriving children from this right is detrimental to their well-being and to their country’s future,” he stated.

Al Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam denied the accusations of UNCEF that they are using schools for military purposes.

"The UNICEF accusations are false," Al Houhti spokesman said, calling all media to visit Saada and to observe things in reality rather than 'depending on wrong information'.

"We have no interest in staying in school, they are small and mostly destroyed by the war," he said.

He considered these accusations as an attempt from the government to renounce it commitments. He demanded the government to appoint teachers and to start teaching the Yemeni curriculum.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Yemen al Qaeda arm claims attack on UK ambassador

Source: Reuters

Al Qaeda's Yemen wing has claimed a suicide attack on the British ambassador to Sanaa, accusing him of leading a war on Muslims in the Arabian peninsula on Britain's behalf, a monitoring group said on Wednesday.

The British envoy survived the April 26 attempt on his life, carried out by a suicide bomber who targeted his convoy in Sanaa in an attack Yemen said bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda. The bomber was killed and three people were wounded.

The attack was a reminder that militants were still intent and capable of carrying out high impact attacks despite recent efforts by Sanaa to crack down on the global militant group that has seen a resurgence in impoverished Yemen.

Al Qaeda said the attack was carried out by Uthman Noman al-Salwi, and provided his picture, according to the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group which said on Wednesday that the claim had been posted on jihadist forums.

It said the attack was "a martyrdom seeking operation ... in Sanaa province, targeting the so-called British ambassador, who leads the war against Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula on behalf of his state."

"Britain is America's closest ally in its war on Islam, and it is the one which called the London Conference, in which it plotted against the Arabian Peninsula," the statement said, referring to a donor conference convened in London this year to discuss ways to help stabilize the impoverished country.

The statement also complained about Britain's role in the establishment of the state of Israel, according to SITE.

Yemen had identified the bomber as 22-year-old Othman Ali al-Sulwi, whose father said his son had been released from prison earlier this year but disappeared weeks before the attack.

Yemen, next door to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has been a key Western security concern since the Yemen-based al Qaeda arm claimed responsibility for a failed December attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound passenger plane.

Western countries and Riyadh want Yemen, also grappling with a northern Shi'ite insurgency and southern separatism, to quell its domestic conflicts to turn its focus to the fight against al Qaeda, which they see as a bigger global threat.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Yemen says will not turn over militant cleric to US

Source: Reuters 11/05/2010
Mon, May 3 2010SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen will not hand over to Washington a militant Muslim cleric wanted dead or alive by U.S. authorities, but instead put him on trial if he is arrested, the Yemeni foreign minister was quoted on Monday as saying.
U.S. officials said in April President Barack Obama's administration had authorized operations to capture or kill U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki -- a leading figure linked to al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, which claimed responsibility for a failed bombing of a Detroit-bound plane in December.

"The man the U.S. wants to be extradited will stand trial in Yemen under the national law," the state news agency Saba quoted Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi as saying, referring to Awlaki, who is of Yemeni origin.

"Because of his recent terrorist activity, Awlaki is now wanted by the Yemeni government. Hence, he must be tried ... in his homeland but never by other governments," Qirbi was quoted as telling Kuwait's al-Dar newspaper.

Awlaki has said he had contacts with a Nigerian suspect in the attempted bombing of the transatlantic passenger plane and with a U.S. army psychiatrist accused of shooting dead 13 people at a military base in Texas in November.

In a resurgence of violence in northern Yemen, clashes between government forces and Shi'ite rebels forced the closure of a main road from the capital Sanaa to the northern city of Saada on Monday, a local official told Reuters.

In the south, where the government faces growing separatist unrest, one of two security men injured by a home-made bomb in a park died of his wounds, a defense ministry website said on Monday. No one was reported hurt by a second bomb that went off near a bank in the southern port of Aden on Sunday.

Armed separatists abducted three government soldiers to press for the release of fellow activists arrested in recent weeks, an official told Reuters.

Born in New Mexico, Awlaki led prayers at U.S. mosques. He returned to Yemen in 2004 where he taught at a university before he was arrested and imprisoned in 2006 for suspected links to al Qaeda and involvement in attacks.
Awlaki was released in December 2007 after he was said to have repented.
Western countries fear that al Qaeda's resurgent regional wing is exploiting instability in Yemen, an impoverished country bordering oil giant Saudi Arabia, to launch attacks in the region and beyond.
North and south Yemen united in 1990 but many in the south, where most of Yemen's oil facilities are located, complain northerners exploit the south's resources and discriminate against southern citizens. Officials deny the allegations.

Yemeni soldiers, rebels killed in clash

Source: AFP 11/05/2010
SANAA — Two Yemeni soldiers and an unstated number of Shiite Zaidi rebels were killed on Monday in the north in the first such clash since the two parties agreed a truce in February, a security official said.

Several others from both sides were wounded in the clash in the Harf Sufyan district of Amran Province, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of the capital, the official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
"The exchange of fire between the Huthis (rebels) and the army took place after a vehicle belonging to the Huthis overturned on the road of Bart triangle in Harf Sufyan," he said.
The official said the Huthis blocked the road linking Harf Sufyan and Saada, the stronghold of the northern rebels, and that the two sides exchanged shellfire for about 30 minutes before mediators managed to restore calm.
In a statement, the Huthis accused the army of ambushing the rebels who were in the vehicle, and they acknowledged that a number of rebels were killed in the firefight.
"Soldiers have ambushed a (rebel) leader which led to a gunfight that resulted in the death of several soldiers and some of us," they said, adding that the road was blocked "because of the clash."
The statement acknowledged, however, that calm had been restored.
Although sporadic clashes between the rebels and neighbouring tribes loyal to the Sanaa government have been reported since a truce was enforced in February, this was the first clash with the army.

Yemen launched an all-out offensive against the Huthis last August in a bid to eradicate their five-year revolt.
The rebels later also locked horns with Saudi forces after accusing Riyadh of allowing Yemen's military to use its territory to stage attacks in border areas.
In February the government and rebels reached a truce.
This required the opening of major routes in the north, rebels withdrawing from official buildings and captured army posts, the return of arms seized from security forces, release of all prisoners including Saudis and a pledge not to attack Saudi Arabia.
Many northerners were displaced by the conflict, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees putting the number at more than 250,000 people.
Yemeni authorities have accused the rebels of seeking to restore the Zaidi Shiite imamate that ruled in Sanaa until its overthrow in a 1962 republican coup that sparked eight years of civil war.
The rebels, who complain of economic and political discrimination against the north's Zaidis, have repeatedly denied the charge.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Two bomb explosions injure two people in south Yemen

By Ashwaq Arrabyee

Two security people were injured in two bomb explosions on Sunday in Aden, south of Yemen.

The two bombs donated consecutively outside a bank near to public garden of Al Taawahi district, security sources said.

No one was injured in the first explosion, according to the army 26 September website, but the second bomb went off once the security men were trying to defuse it.

Security sources said those who planted the bombs are trying to destabilize security, stability and public safety.

The security forces cordoned off the area and started investigations into the incident.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Yemen seizes weapons on fishing ship

Source: Saba News Agency

Yemen's coastguard forces – Gulf of Aden captured late on Saturday a fishing ship was carrying various kinds of machine guns, ammunition and day and night binoculars.

Head of the Yemeni Coastguard Authority (YCA) Abdullah Rase'a said that YCA patrol boats have suspected a fishing ship in an area between Ras Amran and Khur al-Amirah.

After inspected, the coastguard forces found and seized the weapons in addition to arresting 14 sailors from India and Somalia were on the ship, Rase'a said.

He added that the ship now in Aden port and its 14-member crew are under investigation.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Obama names ambassador to violence-hit Yemen

Source: AFP 08/05/2010

WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama on Friday named Gerald Feierstein, who has broad experience in Arab and Muslim countries, to serve as ambassador to Yemen, which is battling a growing threat from Al-Qaeda.

Feierstein, currently deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Islamabad, would serve in a country where the British ambassador narrowly escaped a suicide attack last month.

The Senate must confirm his nomination, which was announced in a statement released by the White House on Friday. Feierstein would replace Stephen Seche, who arrived in Sanaa in August 2007.

A career foreign service member, Feierstein previously served as the principal deputy assistant coordinator and deputy assistant coordinator of programs in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, it said.

His overseas assignments include Tunis, Riyadh, Peshawar, Muscat, Jerusalem and Beirut, the White House said.

The US embassy in the last week advised Americans to remain vigilant about their personal security and urged embassy staff to avoid a hotel frequented by Westerners, the Movenpick Hotel in Sanaa, until further notice.

On April 26, a suicide bomber tried but failed to blow up the convoy of British ambassador Timothy Torlot near the Movenpick. Yemen's interior ministry had said that the attack carried the "fingerprints of Al-Qaeda."

Yemen has intensified operations against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group's local arm, since December -- the network claimed responsibility for the December 25 attempt to blow up a US airliner over Detroit.

The United States reportedly has supplied Yemen with intelligence and other support for its operations against Al-Qaeda militants.

Anwar al-Awlaki inspired Fort Hood attack and Times Square car bomb

Source: Guardian By Ian Black, Middle East editor, Hugh Macleod in Sana'a.

His name is synonymous with fiery internet sermons, angry calls for Muslims to rise up in jihad. For Americans, the militant preacher Anwar al-Awlaki has now emerged as a key link between the most serious "homegrown" terrorist plots on US soil – including last week's abortive car bombing in New York's Times Square.

Faisal Shahzad, who was charged in New York on Tuesday with driving the bomb to Times Square and described yesterday by General David Petraeus of US central command as a "lone wolf" has reportedly told law enforcement officials that he was a "fan and a follower" of Awlaki. US officials say the militant preacher is seen as a highly influential figure in mobilising English-speaking Muslims to plan al-Qaida-style atrocities.

Awlaki, 39, and born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, was linked to Major Nidal Hasan, the US army major charged in the shooting deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, last November. His name surfaced again in the case of the Christmas Day "underpants bomber", Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, who claimed the airliner attack over Detroit on behalf of the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an active "franchise" of Osama bin Laden's organisation.

Awlaki has degrees in engineering and education from American universities. Despite not having a formal Islamic education, he was an imam in San Diego and Virginia and was questioned by the FBI about links with three of the 9/11 hijackers. In recent years his sermons and recordings have been found on the computers of terrorist suspects in the US, Canada and Britain. Between 2002 and 2004, he spent time in the UK, living in Leicester and preaching at events sponsored by Salafi and Islamist organisations.

US counter-terrorist officials date his radical phase from when he left Britain for Yemen, where he was imprisoned. Last month the US government announced that he was being officially targeted for capture or assassination after he expressed open support for AQAP and called for "jihad" against the US.

He also described Abdulmutallab as his student, adding: "I support what he did after seeing my brothers being killed in Palestine for more than 60 years, and others being killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan." US raids on al-Qaida targets in Yemen preceded the Detroit incident.

One expert said today: "Awlaki's story is one of his evolution from being a moderate and respected Islamic scholar to an extremist, then a radicaliser, to an active spokesperson for al-Qaida. That's why he now has [US] drones after him."

Awlaki's appeal to disaffected Muslims combines his Islamic learning with deft use of new media such as blogs and websites, free and easily downloadable lectures and, above all, "viral" marketing – both online and through the more traditional method of copying and distributing cheap CDs outside mosques and community centres.

"Awlaki has a huge internet following among Muslims all over the world," said Faisal Gazi, a British Muslim blogger. "His sermons, delivered in word perfect English and Arabic, are downloaded and shared by vast numbers of people in the Middle East and in the west."

Last November researchers found that Awlaki had some 2,000 videos on YouTube, many of them from his DVD series on the lives of Islamic prophets, work that shows his flair for accessibility and credibility.

Awlaki is currently believed to be hiding in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa with AQAP leaders, protected by the heavily armed Awaliq tribe: this poses a dilemma for the Yemeni government, which is under heavy pressure from the US to fight al-Qaida, but painfully aware of local constraints, and especially the danger of being seen as too close to Washington.

In February, the US earmarked $150m in security assistance for Yemen, up from $67m last year, including funding for repairing old helicopters and providing new ones capable of flying special forces into remote areas.

Until recently President Ali Abdullah Salih had refused to commit to hunting down Awlaki, but has changed tack. "Awlaki is now being pursued by Yemeni security forces," the foreign minister, Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi, said. "But what is needed is for capabilities to be given to Yemen's security forces to pursue him and other terrorists in the country."

Western governments often talk of the dangers of Yemen's "ungoverned spaces", but Sana'a insists it must be left to decide how to deal with al-Qaida, which is far from the most serious problem facing the Arab world's poorest country."The tribal system is part of the government's means of ensuring that terrorists are not given safe haven in their areas," Qirbi said.

"The problem is how do they perceive the government of Yemen dealing with terrorists? They object to external influence in confronting al Qaida and this why Yemen has always stated that fighting al Qaida should be the responsibility of the Yemeni government and security forces.

This is the way we ensure people in Yemen and tribal people and their leaders will back the efforts to combat al-Qaida."

Somali pirates capture Yemeni ship

By Ashwaq Arrabyee 07/05/2010

Somali pirates hijacked Yemeni Fishing boat carrying 7 crew members in the Yemen's territorial waters, Ministry of Interior said Friday.

The Yemeni coast guards said that the Somali pirates seized the boat known as Al-Dhafer off the Yemeni coast of Ka'l Fera'awn Island.

The pirates headed with the Yemeni captured boat to the area of Balmak in Somalia, the sources said.

The coast guards said they are now making efforts to free the boat with its Yemeni 6 sailors.

Early last week, security sources in the Interior Minster said that a Yemeni cargo ship was captured by the Somali pirates. The 9 sailor ship was sailing from the Yemeni port of Mukalla to the port of Aden carrying different goods.

The Yemeni coast guards said they had information confirming the Yemeni ship is being seized at a northern Somali port, in Al Qarta area.

Efforts are still continuing to release the seized vessels, the Yemeni Coast guards said.

An Eye on America Is Also Under Watch

Source: New York Times


ANY journalist working in a war-torn or politically unstable region knows the risks and headaches of the job: threats to personal safety, difficulties of access, interference from authorities. For the documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who has now made one film in occupied Iraq (the Oscar-nominated “My Country, My Country”)(“The Oath”), there is the added complication of being, she believes, on a United States government watch list. and another in the volatile Persian Gulf state of Yemen.

Flying home to New York in 2006 from a film festival in Sarajevo, Ms. Poitras was stopped while changing planes in Vienna and questioned by security agents there. Since then she has traveled to Yemen repeatedly to work on “The Oath” and, by her count, she has been stopped for questioning more than 20 times; whenever she arrives home from a trip abroad, customs and border-protection officials are waiting for her plane, she said.

When going to the Berlin film festival in February to show “The Oath,” Ms. Poitras said, airline agents at Kennedy Airport told her she was not authorized to board the flight; she was only allowed on after her lawyer made a few well-placed calls.

For security reasons the United States government does not say why people are on the watch list, or even confirm that they are on it. But Ms. Poitras said she thinks it is the frequency of her trips to the Middle East and the associations she has made in the course of making her films that have raised concerns.

All that time she has spent in the danger zones of Iraq and Yemen have produced two of the most searching documentaries of the post-9/11 era, on-the-ground chronicles that are sensitive to both the political and the human consequences of American foreign policy.

“My Country, My Country” observes the prelude to the 2005 Iraqi elections through the eyes of a Sunni doctor seeking a seat on the Baghdad Provincial Council. “The Oath,” which had its premiere at Sundance in January and is now playing at the IFC Center in Manhattan, again uses what Ms. Poitras calls a “micro-macro” approach, “following an individual story to look at the bigger questions.”

Her intended focus was the American detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, and her initial idea was to document the homecoming of a released prisoner. She started her search in Yemen, the home of a significant number of Guantánamo detainees, including the most prominent of them all, Salim Hamdan.

Captured in Afghanistan in November 2001, Mr. Hamdan had worked as a driver for Osama bin Laden since the mid-1990s. He was the first person to stand trial under the military tribunals that the Bush administration devised after 9/11 and that the Supreme Court, ruling in the case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, later found to be a violation of international law.

In Sana, Yemen’s capital, a local journalist helping Ms. Poitras asked if she wanted to meet Mr. Hamdan’s family. She found herself in the living room of a voluble man in his early 30s who went by the nom de guerre Abu Jandal (his real name is Nasser al-Bahri). Without looking for him, Ms. Poitras had stumbled upon an ideal subject for her film: “Someone who intersects in so many ways with the post-9/11 universe,” she said.

Abu Jandal once worked for Al Qaeda, serving as a bodyguard for Mr. bin Laden and running guest houses in Afghanistan for new recruits. It was Abu Jandal who enlisted Mr. Hamdan on a jihadi mission in the mid-’90s, and the two men became brothers-in-law when they married sisters at Mr. bin Laden’s urging.

It took patience and persistence to get the kind of access to Abu Jandal that Ms. Poitras wanted. “He wouldn’t say no, but dates would keep getting pushed,” she said. She shot the film over two years, making a dozen trips to Yemen and waiting for days or weeks until he was ready to meet. Sometimes a monthlong trip would yield a mere four or five hours of footage.

Abu Jandal is not exactly publicity shy. In “The Oath” Ms. Poitras incorporates clips from his television appearances, on “60 Minutes” and an Al Jazeera program, and shows him being interviewed by Robert F. Worth, a reporter for The New York Times. But while it was not hard to get Mr. Jandal to talk, Ms. Poitras also wanted to shadow him in everyday settings. In “The Oath” he is seen holding court with young radicals, praying with his son and chatting with passengers in his taxi.

Ms. Poitras said she constantly wrestled with the contradictions of Abu Jandal, who has renounced terrorism but still supports the goals of Al Qaeda, and with the idea of making a film about a religious extremist who is so charismatic. While most political documentaries are only too eager to tell the viewer what to think, “The Oath” keeps the expectations and sympathies of audiences in provocative flux.

In the largely progressive world of American political documentaries, Ms. Poitras said: “I knew I was making a film that wasn’t going to be easily messaged. It doesn’t fit into an easy story, something we can rally around and use as a symbol of what’s wrong with the war on terror.”

Abu Jandal’s troublesome charm is both a crucial part of the story and a central conundrum for the storyteller. “You have to show the charisma to understand how this organization works,” Ms. Poitras said, referring to Al Qaeda. “But it also feels like you’re playing with fire because you don’t want to be a mouthpiece for him.”

Another difficulty was in figuring out how to tell Mr. Hamdan’s story alongside Abu Jandal’s. While Ms. Poitras filmed him in Yemen, her co-cinematographer, Kirsten Johnson, was at Guantánamo Bay, following his brother-in-law’s trial. (Ms. Johnson also shot the exterior scenes in Yemen; she and Ms. Poitras won the best cinematography award in the documentary section at Sundance.)

Off limits to the filmmakers, Mr. Hamdan is the specter who haunts “The Oath.” His letters to Abu Jandal are heard in voice-over, accompanying ominous shots of barren Guantánamo landscapes. Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom, so Ms. Johnson’s approach was to “spend as much time as I could at the trial, and then carry that with me out into the world,” she said, looking for visual analogues to evoke Mr. Hamdan’s condition. (On the stand Mr. Hamdan, who had been held in solitary confinement, described the sensation of “growing eyes” all over his body.)

Ms. Poitras described the making of “The Oath” as “a constant process of negotiation,” with Abu Jandal in person and then again in the editing room as she and her editor, Jonathan Oppenheim, pored over the raw material.

“Usually you see two sides of people when you’re looking at footage, and they seem fairly integrated,” Mr. Oppenheim said. “I would see 8 or 10 people in Abu Jandal.”

With its surprising reversals and deferred revelations, not to mention an antihero who doubles as an unreliable narrator, “The Oath” draws on storytelling methods more often associated with fiction than with documentary. During her ample downtime in Yemen, Ms. Poitras said, she read Don DeLillo novels, including “Mao II” and “Libra,” which had explored the horror and mystique of terrorism long before 9/11. And while editing, she had in the back of her mind the streamlined moral film thrillers of the Dardenne brothers.

“He’s a complicated protagonist and, in a sense, he’s irreconcilable,” Ms. Poitras said of Abu Jandal. “The film was very much about constructing a mystery around who this guy is. There’s a constant questioning about his motivations.”

Ms. Poitras has yet to settle on her next project, but there will be less international travel involved. She sees “My Country, My Country” and “The Oath” as the first two parts of a trilogy that she plans to conclude with a documentary about domestic surveillance or the 9/11 trials.

Whatever it is, the next film will try to confront, on home turf, the original trauma of 9/11 that ripples through her Iraq and Yemen documentaries. “I really think they’re movies about America,” she said, “and I want to wrap it up here.”

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Russian marines free hijacked oil tanker in dawn raid


Russian marines on Thursday stormed an oil tanker seized by Somali pirates, killing one hijacker and capturing ten others in a helicopter-backed rescue operation at dawn.

Russian marines free hijacked oil tanker in dawn raid
The oil tanker was seized 500 miles off the Somali coast Photo: Photoshot

The raid in the Gulf of Aden resulted in the rescue of all 23 crew members of the MV Moscow University twenty hours after pirates seized the Russian vessel some 500 miles off the Somali coast. The ten captured pirates will be brought to Moscow to stand trial.

The hijacked ship's captain, Yuri Tulchinsky, said he had been on his way to China with a cargo of oil worth £35 million when he saw two speed boats packed with armed pirates approaching. The pirates, armed with automatic weapons and grenade launchers, opened fire, he said.

Captain Tulchinsky described how he immediately took evasive action, locking himself and his crew inside the engine room before the pirates could take them hostage.

He said he was able to demobilise the ship's propulsion system and radio for help, raising a nearby Russian warship, The Marshal Shaposhnikov, which promptly set off in the hijacked tanker's direction.

On arrival, the warship dispatched a helicopter to assess the situation, but the pirates were quick to open fire and a gun battle ensued.

A group of helicopter-borne Russian marines then landed on the tanker's deck by scaling down ropes, said naval sources, while other marines approached by speed boat and boarded simultaneously.

"After a short fire fight, the pirates were neutralised" and then surrendered, said a top ranking naval source. The Russian navy reported it had captured ten pirates and killed one, sustaining no casualties itself.

Russia's foreign ministry said the tanker would most likely continue on its planned voyage to China.

The operation is likely to be seen as a vindication of the Kremlin's tough anti-piracy strategy. It has stationed warships in the region on a permanent and rotating basis since January of last year. It originally decided to send in the navy after a Ukrainian-owned cargo ship, the MV Faina, was hijacked in 2008, and its Russian captain killed.

Somali pirates are still able to seize ships despite the presence of an international fleet of warships in the busy shipping lanes linking Europe with Asia. Shipowners and insurers have paid out tens of millions of pounds in ransoms.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Pirates Seize Russian Oil Tanker off Yemen

Source: Reuters 06/05/2010

A Russian oil tanker has reportedly been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Yemen Wednesday and Russian warship 'Marshal Shaposhnikov' patrolling the dangerous waters had responded to its distress call and was now on its way to assist the stricken vessel.

'MV Moscow University' belonging to Novorossiyk Shipping Company was sailing from Sudan to China carrying 86,000 tons of oil when it came under attack from buccaneers.

"The oil is Chinese. It belongs to Unipec. It was sailing to (the Chinese) port Ningbo," reports quoted a Russian shipping source as saying.

Confirming the incident, European Union's anti-piracy force EU NAVFOR Commander Rear Admiral Jan Thornqvist told reporters in Mombasa, Kenya, that the task force was alerted about an attack on a Liberian flagged ship 'Moscow University.' He added that the ship's 23-member crew had locked themselves up inside the radar room after it became evident that pirates had boarded the vessel.

"This morning we had an attack on a Liberian flagged ship Moscow University in the north eastern horn of our operation. The crew members locked themselves in the radar room. This ship has been hijacked," Thornqvist said.

According to NAVFOR, 'Moscow University' had not registered with the Maritime Security Center Horn of Africa for its transit through the Gulf of Aden.

Despite international efforts to weed out the menace, Somali pirates continue to operate with impunity and some of their leaders are known to have amassed vast sums of money received as ransom for releasing the hijacked vessels.

Mother ships used by pirates give them the luxury to strike as far as the Mozambique Channel and off India's coast in recent months and shipping companies are charting their vessels around the southern tip of Africa to avoid the Suez Canal and pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.

Meanwhile, in a recent report the International Maritime Bureau(IMB) said there was a drop in the number of ship hijackings by pirates this year compared with the same period of last year and this was attributed to the close watch being maintained by naval forces in the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden as well as steps taken by mercantile marines.

However, even as the number of hijackings came down appreciably, the corsairs who were earlier confined to the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia started expanding their operations to the coasts off Kenya, Tanzania, the Seychelles, and even Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and Oman in the Arabian Sea.

Yemen bans Arab conference on Darfur crisis

Source: AFP 06/05/2010

SANAA — Yemen on Wednesday slapped a last-minute ban on a meeting of Arab parliamentarians to discuss the crisis in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, the head of one group due to attend said.

"We were surprised a few hours before the conference began when security men blocked participants access to the hall," Yemen's Social Democratic Forum secretary general Nabil Abdulhafiz said.

He cited the security men as saying they had "received instructions to do so."

The government had earlier given the participants "all the facilities including the granting of visas without any restrictions, so we found the decision to ban the conference surprising," Abdulhafiz added.

"I think that the Sudanese government has put pressure on the Yemeni authorities to prevent the conference from taking place," he charged.

Abdulhafiz said that after contacting officials, "the justification we heard from a high Yemeni official is that the government avoids and does not allow a conference in Sanaa which may direct abuse to a fellow Arab country."

Eight parliamentarians from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Sudan described the decision as "contrary to the laws and regulations of the Republic of Yemen," in a statement received by AFP.
According to the United Nations, 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes since rebels in Darfur rose up against the Khartoum government which was aided by local Arab militias, in February 2003. Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000

Yemen frays under economic, political stress

Source: Reuters by Alistair Lyon 05/05/2010

BEIRUT, May 5 (Reuters) - Yemen can no longer feed its people as its economy buckles under the strain of declining oil and water resources, corruption and violent conflicts.

One in three of Yemen's 23 million people suffer chronic hunger and more than one in 10 Yemeni children are acutely malnourished, U.N. aid agencies said on Tuesday.

Such bleak economic realities feed into the political challenges to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 31-year rule.

Secessionist unrest in the south looms as his gravest immediate problem now that a fragile ceasefire has calmed a long-running northern "Houthi" revolt -- although that truce risks unravelling, with breaches reported on both sides.

Islamist militancy, fuelled by poverty, poses a lesser threat, analysts say, despite last month's failed attack by an al Qaeda suicide bomber on the British ambassador in Sanaa.

"The south is the real challenge," said Yemeni political analyst Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani. "The regime is not dealing with the grievances of southerners, raising the spectre of a civil war. Arguably a low-level civil war is already in progress."

Southern discontent, rumbling since a 1994 civil war, has flared into mass protests and almost daily clashes with security forces. Secessionist groups are split and lack outside support.

"There is no doubt, however, that the Southern Movement has the potential to develop into a major challenge to the legitimacy of the government, the stability of the country and eventually to the integrity of the state," argued a paper published in April by the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.

Instability or state collapse in Yemen, a small Arab oil producer, risks dire consequences for oil giant Saudi Arabia and its other neighbours in the Gulf and the Horn of Africa.

North and south Yemen united in 1990, but many in the south, home to most Yemeni oil facilities, say northerners usurp their resources, warp their identity and deny their political rights.

President Saleh has complained that southerners nurture a "culture of hate" against the north.

"Southern disaffection has gone beyond the point of no return," Victoria Clark, author of a recent book on Yemen, told Reuters. "Saleh's biggest mistake would be to crack down on southerners as hard as he has tried to do on the Houthi rebels."

Southerners, comprising less than a fifth of the population, no longer have the tanks, aircraft and heavy weapons to fight a conventional war as they did in the 1994 secessionist revolt.


"My best guess would be that the break-up of the state will happen in the inevitable dust-up that will follow the removal of Saleh, which will happen when the money to pay the army and civil service runs out," Clark said.

The Sanaa government is already strapped for cash. This week it raised fuel prices to ease the burden of diesel subsidies which Central Bank officials say cost around $2 billion a year.

Yemen, whose rial has lost over 10 percent of its dollar value this year, said in January it needed $2 billion a year in aid to stay afloat and double that to turn its economy around.

"The regime pretends it's just a matter of fine-tuning an otherwise well-running machine, but the machine is broken and without an overhaul we face disaster," said Iryani, listing economic woes such as tariff collection failures, declining foreign investment, diesel smuggling and capital flight.

Yemen lies near the bottom of Transparency International's corruption index, ranking 154 out of 180 countries last year.

Yemeni officials, however, blame falling oil income for aggravating economic, financial and security problems.

Western donors, alarmed by a Christmas Day attack on a U.S. airliner by a Yemen-based al Qaeda militant, say they want to improve governance and the capacity of Saleh's government to spend $4.7 billion of aid pledged as long ago as 2006.

Throwing development money or counter-terrorism aid at Yemen will not correct what a Carnegie paper by Australian academic Sarah Phillips called "the heavily centralised system of power that keeps resources and political leverage in the hands of a select few and further entrenches Yemenis' economic hardship".

That hardship is perhaps nowhere more acute than among the 270,000 people who fled battles between government forces and Houthi rebels in and around the northern city of Saada.

A February ceasefire halted six months of fierce fighting in the north, but U.N. officials say many of the displaced have sold their last livestock while waiting to see if it holds.

"People have three options after that -- revolt, migrate or die," said World Food Programme spokeswoman Emilia Casella.

Senior Yemeni officials say al Qaeda recruiters can also thrive in a country with 35 percent unemployment, coupled with poverty affecting 42 percent of a young population.

Iryani, the Yemeni analyst, described al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is thought to have no more than a few hundred militants, as a minor concern that could be laid to rest if the grievances that helped it recruit were addressed.

"Poverty, injustice, callous disregard for the law and rampant corruption that have undermined the legitimacy of the regime: once we deal with these we can easily deal with AQAP."

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Hunger in Yemen could spark unrest, exodus: U.N.

Source: Reuters 5\5\2010

One in every three people is suffering from chronic hunger in Yemen where growing food shortages could spark further unrest or mass migration, United Nations aid agencies warned Tuesday.

Despite widespread hunger, life-saving food rations have been slashed again in the fractious country due to a lack of donor funding, the U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP) said.

Some 7.2 million people, one third of Yemen's population, suffer from chronic hunger, according to the U.N. agency. About 3.4 million of them require food aid, but only 475,000 are getting rations it was forced to halve in May.

They include 270,000 people who fled fighting between government forces and rebels in and near the northern town of Saada. Many have sold their last livestock or foregone medical care while waiting to see whether a fragile truce holds.

"People have three other options after that -- revolt, migrate or die. A cut in rations is not a first step, it's a last resort," WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella told a briefing.

"The rest of the people are receiving no assistance right now. And those who are receiving assistance are getting half of what they ought to be getting," she added.

More than one in 10 children suffers from acute malnutrition in Yemen, where stunting rates are second only to Afghanistan, Casella said. Yemeni children of over a year old have arrived at WFP feeding centres weighing the same as a newborn child.
"Many families essentially eat only bread and tea."

The remainder of the 500,000 receiving aid include refugees from neighboring Somalia and Ethiopia, as well as some Yemeni children under five and pregnant or lactating women.

Yemen's government, struggling to stabilize the Arab world's poorest country where al Qaeda is trying to strengthen its foothold, agreed a truce in February with the northern rebels to halt fighting that has raged on and off since 2004 and displaced more than a quarter of a million people.

Cattle farmers who fled fighting in Saada now face a "very serious and dramatic situation," as most have sold their livestock and used what little money they had to pay for rent or food, the U.N. refugee agency said.

"People are still not going back to their areas of origin. They still feel it is unsafe and fear the mines and unexploded ordnance," said Andrej Mahecic of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"They want to see proof that the peace is holding. So this could not have come at a worse moment for them," he said.

Children are the most vulnerable in food shortages, according to the U.N. children's fund UNICEF. "They are the first to suffer," said spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume.

The WFP has received $27.7 million toward its appeal of $103 million for Yemen this year. The United States, Britain, Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia are among donors so far, but other countries have lagged, according to Casella.