By Nasser Arrabyee/28/09/2010
The Yemeni forces did not find any fighters of Al Qaeda in the remote southern town of Al Huta in Shabwah province after retaking it early Friday September 24th, 2010.
The storm came after four days of complete siege on the town where about 100 Al Qaeda fighters were cornered by American-trained anti-terror forces from all directions according security and military officials .
So, where Al Qaeda fighters went ? Almost all the 20,000 population of the town were already out before the all-out offensive in which all kinds of weapons including fighter jets and helicopters were used.
The government said five Al Qaeda fighters and two soldiers were killed and 32 Al Qaeda suspects were arrested many others from both sides injured during all Al Huta operations. The security forces are chasing after the remaining operatives of Al Qaeda in the neighboring mountainous areas between Shabwah and Hudhrmout in the east of the country according to the government officials.
Local residents, however, say that Al Qaeda fighters escaped from the western direction of Al Huta and went to Mareb province , one of the stronghold of Al Qaeda . about 250 km east of the capital Sana’a.
“Al Qaeda realized at the end that the army would destroy the town, so they withdrew, they know what they were doing, and the army was lying when they said they surrounded the town from all directions,” said Abu Ahmed from Al Huta over phone. “I think they went to Mareb because they escaped from western part of the town in the direction of Mareb, they know what they are doing.”
The opposition abroad who inspire the separatist movement in the south accuses the government of using Al Qaeda as a justification to strike separatists and to divert the attention of the world from the southern issue.
“The attack on Al Huta was designed to secure “financial assistance under the pretext of fighting terrorism, and to divert the attention of the leaders of the world from discussing the southern issue from political aspect,” said Ali Salem al-Baidh, the former president of the south before unity in 1990 and who is based in Germany now and calling for separation.
While the Yemeni security forces were combing the town of Al Huta on Friday, September 24th, delegations from about 27 countries from GCC, EU, US, Japan and other international agencies and donors (known as Friends of Yemen) were in a meeting in New York to assess a previous plan to help Yemen get out from its political, economic, development and security problems. The Friends of Yemen said in a statement they support unity, security, and stability of Yemen.
The US plans to give Yemen $1.2 billion in military aid to fight Al Qaida over the upcoming six years.
The US military assistance to Yemen for the 2010 increased 155 million US$.
The government from its side accuses the separatists of cooperating and coordinating with Al Qaeda despite the contradicting ideologies of them.
Observers say the separatist and Al Qaeda are only exploiting each to strike the common enemy, the government.
“ Because people are angry from the deteriorating economic situation, you can not differentiate between Al Qaeda and separatists and all against the government, and poor and unemployed young people look at them as heroes,” Kasem Khaleel, a social figure from the southern province of Abyan.
What happen in Al Huta this month had happened last August in Lawdar in the southern province of Abyan where about 30- 40 Al Qaeda fighters escaped after five days of fierce confrontations in which about 33 people were killed including 15 Al Qaeda militants and 11 soldiers were killed.
“They used three pick-up cars and escaped from one of the security check points, the security soldiers let them go at the end,” said Kasem Khaleel quoting local eyewitnesses.
Most of those who escaped from Lawdar last August are believed to have fought with Al Huta group.
The war between Al Qaeda and the Yemeni forces is open and continuing not only in the unstable south but almost everywhere.
On Saturday September 25th, 2010, 10 intelligence officers were injured three of them seriously, when a group of gunmen believed to be Al Qaeda supporters opened fire on a bus carrying soldiers belonging to the Political Security Agency, the intelligence, in the area of Shamlan, a northern outskirt of the Yemeni capital Sana’a. Four suspects were arrested later in the day after security forces were deployed in the capital . This attack came few days after Al Qaeda put 55 security officials by names as legitimate targets .
“Their attacks now are based on three motives: to prove they are still strong, to take revenge, and to recruit,” said Saeed Al Jemhi, chairman of the Al Jemhi Centre for Studies, a recently established think-tank specialized in Al Qaeda affairs. Al Jemhi believes that almost 50 percent of the fighters and leaders of Al Qaeda in Yemen are Saudi.
“Saudis are important for finance and for experience,” he said.
It is not only the security forces who fight Al Qaeda but also the US-back government is using the courts to try the arrested militants.
On September 20th, 2010, four men including a German Iraqi were put on trial before the State Security Court for charges of planning to carry out terrorist acts against government and western interests in Yemen.
The State Security Court ruled on Tuesday September 21st, 2010, that a Yemeni journalist be kept in prison for 30 days more for completing the investigations. The Journalist Abdul Elah Haidar Shaea was arrested by the Yemeni intelligence from his house in Sana’a on August 16th, 2010. His file was submitted to the prosecution on September 14th.
The journalist Shaea became famous after he made an interview with the top leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen Nasser Al Wahaishi in Jaunary 2009, and an interview very late in the same year with the American-Yemeni extremist cleric Anwar Al Awlaki, who is wanted dead or alive for the CIA.
The government media say that among the accusations against Shaea is that “He affiliates to Al Qaeda and that he is the official spokesman for it , and the defender of it, and he offered the ‘Baya’ (oath and loyalty) to the leader of Al Qaeda Nasser Al Wahaishy, and he has relations with Anwar Al Awlaki, the wanted for security.”
Shaea, who works with the Yemeni official news agency Saba, appeared recently in the satellite channels particularly Al Jazeera as analyst with views critical to the government’s dealing with Al Qaeda.