Sunday, 31 October 2010

Yemen seen refusing opposition poll delay request

Source: Reuters, 01/11/2010

SANAA - Yemen's ruling party said on Sunday it would contest a parliamentary election scheduled for April 2011, dashing opposition hopes the government may delay the poll to allow more time for talks on long-promised reforms.

Originally due in 2009, the poll was already delayed once after the government agreed to institute electoral reforms, but the opposition says no such changes have materialized.

"It is necessary that we finally assume our legal and constitutional responsibilities in governing the country and running the elections on time," the General People's Congress affiliated parties said in a statement.

Earlier this year, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who came to power more than 30 years ago, launched an unprecedented charm offensive to woo opponents which analysts and his opponents saw as an effort to relieve Western pressure on his government.

In May, he initiated a political dialogue with the opposition, agreeing for the first time to include his fiercest foes -- the northern rebels and southern separatists -- in talks alongside other opposition groups.

Impoverished Yemen, neighbor to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has come under international pressure to quell domestic conflict and focus on fighting a resurgent regional al Qaeda wing believed to be behind this week's parcel bomb plot.

Two air-freight packages containing bombs -- both sent from Yemen and addressed to synagogues in Chicago -- were intercepted in Britain and Dubai, sparking an international security alert.

Another attempt for dialogue initiated by Yemen's opposition last year fell flat. Both sides accused each other of undermining the process in a country where declining oil income has undermined efforts to tackle poverty, unemployment and failing water resources.

(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam and Mohammed Ghobari, writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; editing by Myra MacDonald)

Girl student suspected of posting parcel bombs released

Yemeni security authorities released Hanan Al-Samawi who is believed to be involved in sending explosive parcels to US, the father confirmed Sunday evening.

Hanan listens to music: Classmates of the girl whose name was found on the explosives package

By Nasser Arrabyee/31/10/2010

“Hanan was here with us yesterday, studying and discussing graduation projects,” said Sunday the classmates of the Yemeni girl who was arrested in Yemen for suspicion over sending explosives packages to United States.

The 24-year old Hanan Al Samawi , on Saturday February 30, 2010, attended as usual the faculty of engineering at the government-run Sana’a university where she is specializing in computer engineering. Hanan, who is the in fifth year, the last year in her bachelor degree, was arrested only hours after she got home.
“Hanan brought to us yesterday her laptop for fixing some soft wares in it, how come she is today accused of terrorism, this is something unbelievable,” said Yahya Al Hammadi, the chairman of the students’ union at the faculty of engineering.

When Hanan was arrested she was only with her mother and two other younger sisters in her house in Shamlan area at the northern outskirt of the Yemeni capital Sana’a. Many military vehicles and counter-terrorism forces including women soldiers surrounded the whole neighborhood not only the house of Hana.
Relatives told a local human rights group that they the security men used a friend of Hana to call her to open the door and she opened.

“ They deceived her by letting one of her friends call her, and opened quickly in home clothes , not veiled, and the security stormed the house,” said the human rights activist Abdul Rahman Barman who is working a lawyer for Hanan although he has not seen her or any of her relatives yet.

The 45-year mother of Hanan, insisted to go with her daughter and security took both of them to unknown place, usually in such cases the headquarters of the National Security Agency.

“I do not know the fate of my daughter and my wife,” the shocked father said Sunday after came back from the eastern province of Hudhrmout where works in an oil company.
Mohammed Ahmed Al Samawi, the father, said his daughter is innocent.
“My daughter has been always from home to college,” he said.
The male classmates in the faculty of engineering were also shocked when they heard the news about Hanan.
“Hanan was always quiet and nice with every one there must have been something wrong,” Said her classmate Sumiyah.

For her interests, some of her colleagues said she was always interested in Piano.
“She is not even too religious, she is very normal, listens to music and dances and she was smart and very interested in her studies,” said her classmate Rasha.
Hundreds of students from the faculty of engineering made demonstration inside their college demanding the release of their colleague Hanan.

The Yemeni parliament discussed the issue of the packages and supported what President Saleh said yesterday that he would continue fighting the terrorism and would not allow any external interference.
Some MPs said intelligence game was behind the packages with aim of targeting Yemen.

The analyst Nabil Al Bukairi, agrees with the MPs who say intelligence game was behind the frenzy.
“There is something being done to justify American strikes against Yemen ,” said Al Bukairi, researcher specialized in Al Qaeda. “Why only Saudi Arabia was the first to tell about the packages, does this mean Al Qaeda is penetrated (infiltrated) by the Saudi intelligence,” he wondered.

Yemen arrests young woman suspected of posting parcel bombs

Yemeni security forces arrested Saturday evening a young female student believed to be involved in sending the two explosive parcels to the United States, security sources said.

This came after the president speech on a press conference that the security force were surrounding a house the person involved in sending the explosive parcels.

The young girl, Hanan Al-Samawi, 22, is studying Engineering, fifth level, at Sana’a university. She had been traced through a copy of her ID and telephone number and she had left with a cargo company, Fedex, as the security sources said.

About 10 military vehicles surrounded the Yemeni security forces arrested Saturday evening a young female student believed to be involved in sending the two explosive parcels to the United States, security sources said.

This came after the president speech on a press conference that the security force were surrounding a house the person involved in sending the explosive parcels.

The young girl, Hanan Al-Samawi, 22, is studying Engineering, fifth level, at Sana’a university. She had been traced through a copy of her ID and telephone number and she had left with a cargo company, Fedex, as the security sources said.

About 10 military vehicles surrounded the poor neighbouhood, Shamalan, where the student lives and stormed the house and arrested the girl with her mother,45 year old, who is suffering from chronic diseases, eyewitnesses said.

The sources said the student’s father who is working in as an engineer in an company in Hadhramount province, was not at home at the time of arresting his family member.

On his part, Abdul RahmanBaraman, Hood lawyer, said the war against terrorism should not be a cover for violating the law and what happened represents a clear violation for all international laws and conventions of human rights and for the safety of citizens.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

President Saleh: we’re combating terrorism and won’t allow any external interference

Source: Yemen’s official news agency (Saba) 31/10/2010

SANA'A- President Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Saturday the police is surrounding a house in the capital Sana'a where the suspect involved in sending Friday's suspicious packages on U.S.-bound flights, which triggered a state of high alert at U.S. and UK airports, is hiding.

At a press conference in Sana'a, Saleh said a woman sent the packages through Yemen onboard cargo planes including one that made a stopover in London.

I called British Prime Minister David Cameron and we agreed to form a joint panel to investigate the incident, he told reporters.

Yemen will continue the war on terrorism with available national potentials, he said, reiterating Yemen's refusal to any external intervention in the terror operations on the Yemeni soil.

"As soon as the suspected woman is held, she will be being investigated by security services", said Saleh, adding the National Security Service will provide information about the latest developments to media.

Announcing Yemen had any information about the two packages, the President said that John Brennan, assistant to the U.S. President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, told him two suspected parcels had been seized as they were on way to the United States.

Saleh said that Yemeni security authorities received a letter from Washington includes a telephone No. to a woman and that she allegedly who had sent the two parcels to two mail services companies.

He pointed out that the letter indicates that the U.S. still suspects that the two parcels may be explosive materials.

We have not received any official confirmation that the two parcels contain explosive materials, Saleh confirmed.

He went on to say that he agreed with the British Prime Minister to send a British security team to discuss ways of enhancing security cooperation aspects between Yemeni and British security forces, adding there is security cooperation between Yemen and the U.S., Britain and Saudi Arabia.

President Saleh uncovered more than 70 members of the Yemeni army and security forces were killed in terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda during the past four weeks.

Security measures tightened, two women arrested in Yemen

By Nasser Arrabyee/ 30/10/2010

The Yemeni authorities have tightened securities measures in the Yemeni capital on Saturday after reports about suspicious packages allegedly shipped from in planes bound for United States.

The soldiers were deployment in the streets more than normal and with more check points searching the cars and asking some people for IDs.

Many suspects were arrested including two women on Saturday, according to security sources.

The shipment companies in Sana'a like FedEx, UPS, DHL, declined to speak to journalists and prevented cameramen to shoot their companies. They were obviously scared and afraid to say anything and some of them shouted and fired the journalists.

The Yemeni government from its side denied that any UPS planes took off from Yemen.

"No UPS cargo planes took off from Yemen to other countries there are no direct flights from Yemen to the United Kingdom or the United States," a Yemeni official statement said Saturday.

"UPS planes never land or take off in Yemen."

The security measures at Yemeni airports are tightened and the authorities search passengers and luggage well, the official said, adding that Yemen has recently installed modern checking systems that can detect dangerous or suspicious materials to the safety of passengers and planes

We urge the media not to make hasty judgments about sensitive issues and the media should wait until investigations reveal the truth, the official said, as he pointed out that Yemen has launched an investigation into the allegations and planned to coordinate with the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the U.S. over the issue.

Yemen says UPS planes never take off or land in it

Source: Saba

No UPS cargo planes left Yemen to other countries in the last days and there are no direct flights from Yemen to the United Kingdom or the United States, a Yemeni official said, after allegations that British and U.S. officials had found suspicious packages on planes that originated in Yemen.

The official wondered how the media mentioned the name of Yemen reporting that an explosive device was found onboard a cargo plane that landed in London coming from Yemen.

UPS planes never land or take off in Yemen, the official made clear.

The security measures at Yemeni airports are tightened and the authorities search passengers and luggage well, the official said, adding that Yemen has recently installed modern checking systems that can detect dangerous or suspicious materials to the safety of passengers and planes.

We urge the media not to make hasty judgments about sensitive issues and the media should wait until investigations reveal the truth, the official said, as he pointed out that Yemen has launched an investigation into the allegations and planned to coordinate with the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the U.S. over the issue.

Yemen is determined to continue the war on terror in cooperation with the international community until it roots out all terrorists who pose threat to all, the official concluded.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Suspected Yemen Qaeda chief 'surrenders'

Source: AFP

ADEN, Yemen — A suspected Al-Qaeda commander in the southern Yemen province of Abyan has surrendered to the authorities after negotiations conducted by tribal leaders, a security official said on Thursday.

"Jamal Ahmed Mairan, leader of Al-Qaeda in Loder and Modia (towns) handed himself in on Wednesday after mediation by tribal authorities," the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said Mairan, whose home town is Modia, is wanted in connection with an attack on intelligence officers in Abyan and a bank hold-up in the spring in Aden, the main southern city.
On Monday, 15 suspected Al-Qaeda militants surrendered to the governor of Abyan province in the presence of tribal leaders and their relatives.

An official said some of the men had played "an important role" in clashes between Al-Qaeda and the army in Loder and Modia in the past few months.

Abyan and adjacent Shabwa province have become major fields of operation for Al-Qaeda as the central government in Sanaa struggles to impose its control on the region's heavily armed tribes.
Aden and Abyan are set to host part of the 20th Gulf Football Championship involving Yemen, Iraq and six Gulf monarchies from November 22 to December 5.

The United States has become increasingly concerned about the threat posed by Islamist militancy in the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, and has warned of the potential for Yemen to become a regrouping ground for Al-Qaeda.

Yemen has intensified a military campaign against the network's local franchise, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, since it claimed responsibility for a failed bid on Christmas Day last year to blow up a US-bound airliner by a Nigerian allegedly trained in Yemen.

Further indication of the dangerous situation prevailing in the south came on Thursday when the vehicle of an intelligence services officer was blown up in Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province.
Police said a bomb was placed in the engine of the vehicle while it was parked outside the officer's house. The blast caused no casualties.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Northern ceasefire under increasing strain

Source: IRIN

A nine-month-old ceasefire agreed by the government and Houthi-led Shia rebels in northern Yemen is being undermined by sporadic clashes between the rebels and pro-government tribesmen, and delays to the full implementation of the accord.

Yemen's northern Saada Governorate has suffered six rounds of conflict since 2004 between government forces and the rebels, which displaced an estimated 270,000 people.

A truce in February brought an end to six months of heavy fighting, followed by an agreement between the two sides in August in Qatar.

The Qatar-sponsored deal stipulated that all Houthi prisoners would be moved to Saada governorate in preparation for their release.

In return, the rebels were to return captured military equipment. Neither condition has been met.

Mohammed Abdulhamid, a tribal sheikh from Ibb Governorate, some 200km south of the capital, Sanaa, believes neither side is serious. "More than six agreements had been reached, but none of them held for long," he told IRIN.

The truce also calls for the opening of roads closed by the rebels, but there are reports of frequent ambushes despite the ceasefire.

"The rebels are targeting those citizens believed to be loyal to the government," Dhaifullah Sulaiman, a Saada local council member, told IRIN, adding that attacks were particularly common in the eastern part of the governorate bordering on al-Jawf Governorate.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdussalam said the government had failed to make good its promise to release all detained fighters under a general amnesty announced by President Ali Saleh in May to mark the 20th anniversary of Yemen's unification.

"Only a few hundred were released," he said.

In a statement he also accused the government of not making progress "on other issues, such as the case of vanished people, reconstruction, compensation, stopping the campaign of arrests, and the arming of militias".

The pro-government groups "do not hesitate to kill our women and children", he added.

Tareq al-Shami, spokesman of the ruling General People's Congress, has accused Houthis of regularly violating the February truce. "They refuse to lay down their arms. They refuse to stop intervening in affairs of the local authority," he said.

Lutf Nisari, a security official with the Interior Ministry, said the government had released all rebels who were eligible for bail and agreed to return them to their villages. "Those who didn't bring bail [commercial guarantees from reputable businessmen and the endorsement of senior sheikhs] will remain in detention."

Under Qatari mediation a local committee made up of tribal leaders and eminent figures has been formed to observe ceasefire compliance by both sides.

With secession unrest in the south expanding, Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee believes there is stronger political will than before from within the government to end the conflict in the north. But there has been a potentially dangerous delay over the payment of compensation to civilians whose homes were damaged in the fighting, which is linked to the peace process.

The government's Saada Reconstruction Fund has estimated that 16,000-17,000 families have had their homes and farms damaged since 2004 in Saada and Amran governorates.

It began making payments to 1,100 families in August, but progress has been slow. The government has put the cost of fighting from August 2009 to February this year at US$850 million. [ ]

Reconstruction needs a huge amount of money but "the government is poor," Arrabyee told IRIN. "In the event citizens don't receive the compensation pledged by the government, they will see the government as weak and the base of Houthi support will expand."

Mohammed al-Emad, Saada local council secretary-general, said: "The fund is in urgent need of financial support from donor states and organizations to fulfil its financial obligations."

American al-Qaida suspect goes on trial for murder in Yemen

Source: The Canadian Press

An American who was arrested on suspicion of having links with al-Qaida has been charged with the murder of a Yemeni soldier and the wounding of another during a failed escape attempt.

The 26-year-old American of Somali descent, Sharif Mobley, was charged Wednesday by a criminal court for killing one of his guards and wounding another while attempting to escape from a hospital where he was receiving treatment in March.

He was in originally in custody for links to al-Qaida.

U.S. officials say Mobley, who grew up in Buena, N.J., travelled to Yemen more than two years ago with the goal of joining a terror group and that the U.S. government was aware of his potential extremist ties long before his arrest.

Drones spur Yemenis' distrust of government and U.S.


ByKhaled Abdullah 27\10\2010

An afternoon tribal meeting in a remote desert valley in Yemen is interrupted by the unmistakable hum of an unmanned drone. The men, gathered in their chieftain's courtyard, rise to look at the sky."I wish I had a weapon that could reach that aircraft," tribesman Salim Hassan told the other men at the gathering as he squinted against the sunlight.

The drone is hunting for members of al Qaeda as part of the Yemeni government's U.S.-backed crackdown on the group, launched after al Qaeda's Yemen branch tried to bomb a Detroit-bound plane last December.

Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland and a neighbor to top oil exporterSaudi Arabia, Yemen looked set to become al Qaeda's latest launchpad for attacks in a strategic region vital to the shipment of oil and goods, and beyond.

But the government must tread carefully in Wadi Abida, in the volatile eastern province of Maarib, lest it alienates the very tribes it needs to engage if it is to defeat the militants who hide and train in their midst.

Until a few months ago, Wadi Abida's harsh climate and impenetrable landscape meant militants could operate there relatively undisturbed. Impoverished and heavily armed, local tribes' loyalty to the government had always been flimsy at best.

But tensions between the government and local tribes are growing in Wadi Abida, which is dominated by a vast expanse of sand but is also home to some of Yemen's largest energy reserves; reserves the government needs to run one of the world's poorest countries.

Earlier this year the valley, on the southern edge of the Empty Quarter, saw some of the heaviest fighting between government forces and militants yet and residents say drones still circle their area for hours every day.

The occasional attacks target militants, but have also struck civilians in the valley that is home to 40,000 people. In May, an errant air raid targeting al Qaeda killed five people, among them Jaber al-Shabwani, the province's deputy governor who was mediating between the government and the militants.

"Now children and women are terrified and can't sleep. After Jaber was hit, people are haunted. They expect the next strike to hit the innocent and not the fugitives," his uncle, Saleh al-Shabwani, told Reuters.

The killing so angered Shabwani's tribesmen that in the subsequent weeks they fought heavily with government security forces, twice attacking a major oil pipeline in Maarib.
Maarib's governor, Naji al-Zaidi, told Reuters there were only a dozen or so militants, a mixture of Yemenis and other nationalities, hiding in his province. Zaidi insisted the drones only gather intelligence and are not involved in any attacks.


The cash-strapped government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh does not itself own any drones and Wadi Abida's inhabitants -- along with many Yemenis elsewhere -- are in no doubt about who is behind these operations: Washington.

What is more, in this isolated part of Yemen, where the near-lunar landscape is dotted with only a few houses here and there, many believe the United States' ultimate aim is to come and rule them and their land.

"People are worried. They feel they will be colonized like Iraq and Afghanistan," local tribal chief Mabkhout al-Eradah said.

It would not be the first time U.S. drones hunted fugitives from the skies above Maarib. In 2002, a CIA drone flying over the province fired a missile that killed al Qaeda's then leader in the southern Arabian Peninsula country, prompting a public outcry.

Yemen has fought al Qaeda on and off since before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, often with Washington's help, but al Qaeda has continued to plan and carry out attacks both in Yemen and beyond.

In July 2007, a car bomb killed seven Spaniards who were visiting Maarib.

Four months after December's attempted plane bombing, an al Qaeda video showed the would-be bomber, Nigerian Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attending a militant training camp in the desert and apparently being given a martyr's farewell. It was not clear where the footage was shot but it provided additional evidence that al Qaeda fighters operate with relative freedom in Yemen.

Its government, facing multiple political and economic challenges in different parts of the country, has always had to be careful in publicizing the extent of its cooperation with U.S. forces in order to keep public opinion in check.

Apart from battling against a resurgent al Qaeda wing, Yemen is also struggling to contain simmering unrest from a growing secessionist movement in the south. A six-year conflict with northern rebels only came to an end earlier this year, having displaced over 350,000 people.

The government is helpless in the face of grinding poverty and rampant unemployment, with more than 40 percent of Yemenis living on under $2 a day. Analysts see the ailing economy as a greater risk to Yemen's stability than any security concerns.

"U.S. policy in the region is unpopular in Yemen, and Yemenis are very much politicized, so this is something the government does have to take into consideration," said Nicole Stracke at the Gulf Research Center.

"At the moment the government is so much under pressure that they don't want another source of trouble."Sanaa now denies direct U.S. involvement in the airstrikes on militants, despite Washington becoming increasingly frank.

In August, U.S. security officials said Washington was looking to increase air strikes against al Qaeda's Yemen wing in an attempt to emulate what they consider a successful CIA-run programme using drones in Pakistan.

The Yemeni government was quick to dispute these statements, insisting Yemen did not need "foreign parties" to lead its fight against al Qaeda -- assertions that stood in contrast to previous pleas for assistance from abroad.

When the Obama administration gave the CIA the green light to kill or capture a leading figure with links to al Qaeda, the American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Yemen's prime minister responded by saying that any U.S. assassination on Yemeni soil would be unacceptable.

"Public cooperation would also play into the hands of the militants who argue that the Yemeni government is just a puppet of the United States," Stracke said.

Yemen's U.S.-backed campaign against al Qaeda has prompted the militant group to lash out against state and foreign targets alike and recent messages the group posted on Islamist websites criticize Saleh's relationship with Washington.

Back in Wadi Abida, residents say that while they do not support al Qaeda, they do not accept U.S. intervention on their soil.

"When America is in the sky, the Almighty God is above it. And when it is on the ground, we are here and it will see only war and destruction," Eradah said

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Yemeni journalist put on trial over terror charges

By Nasser Arrabyee/26/10/2010
A Yemeni journalist was put on trial Tuesday for charges of having links with Al Qaeda.
The journalist Abdul Elah Haidar Shaea, who was specialized in Al Qaeda affairs, refused the trial as an unfair and illegal.

In the first hearing, the prosecutor said, that Abdul Elah Haidar Shaea, 34, and Abdul Kareem Dawod Al Shami 28, during the period from 2008 until 16th, August 2010, formed an illegal armed gang and worked for the interest of Al Qaeda.
The first accused, Shaea, recruited a number of mercenaries from outside Yemen and helped them to join Al Qaeda.

The prosecutor also said, that Shaea collected information about the security headquarters and foreign embassies, and provided these information to Al Qaeda with the aim of targeting them.
Shaea also, prosecutor said, published untrue news stories and statements in the media with the aim of promoting Al Qaeda and achieving their goals and damaging security and stability of the nation and its public interests.

The prosecutor said, that Shaea was working as a media advisor for Yemeni-American extremist cleric Anwar Al Awlaki, and that he had meetings with the leaders of Al Qaeda , Nasser AlWahaishy, Saeed Al Shihri, Qasem Al Raimi, and he urged them to strike strategic goals and Yemeni and foreign interests.

The journalist Abdul Elah Haidar Shaea, who is specialized in Al Qaeda affairs, and his friend Abdul Kareem Al Shami, refused the trial as unfair and illegal.

“ I was disappeared for 35 days, and then, I was kept in prison for 30 days more at your orders, judge, now the 30 days are over, I request immediate release, and demand you, to order the arrest of the intelligence officers who kidnapped me ,” Said the journalist Shaea from behind the bars inside the State Security Court in Sana’a.

Shaea appeared in good health and high morale as was waving with his hands to tens of journalists and friends who attended the first hearing.

The journalist Shaea was arrested on August 16th, 2010 from his house in the Yemeni capital Sana’a by the Yemeni intelligence. Without any kind of access to family or lawyers, he was kept in the intelligence prisons until he was referred to the prosecution on September 22nd, 2010 when the court agreed a request from the prosecution for keeping him in prison 30 days more for completing investigations.

In the first hearing on Tuesday, the Judge, Redhwan Al Namer asked Shaea to authorize a lawyer to represent him and adjourned the trial to November 2nd.

The journalist Shaea became famous after he made an exclusive interview with the top leader of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Nasser Al Wahaishy, Abu Baseer, on January 2009. And on November of the same year, he made an interview with the Yemeni-American extremist cleric, Anwar Al Awlaki, who is now wanted for the CIA dead or alive.

Yemen recruits tribesmen to hunt al-Qaida

Source: AP

The Yemeni government has begun a new experiment in fighting al-Qaida, paying off tribes and providing them with weapons to hunt down militants, officials said Monday.

The tactic resembles the U.S. military's policy of persuading Sunni tribes in Iraq to turn against al-Qaida and form armed "Awakening Councils" to fight the insurgents, an effort that had major success in tamping down the terror group's offshoot there. But it is far more tenuous in Yemen, where powerful tribes frequently shift loyalties and often have branches that support al-Qaida militants.

Yemeni opponents of the policy cast doubt on whether it will be effective and warn that it could further destabilize the situation by fueling infighting among tribes.

Al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, is believed to have several hundred of fighters hidden in the mountainous reaches of the country, and the Obama administration has dramatically stepped up its aid to Yemen's military to uproot it.

The group has carried out a campaign of violence against security forces and attacks on U.S. and European facilities in the capital — and claimed responsibility for a failed Christmas Day attempt to blow up a passenger jet over the U.S.

Yemeni troops have been pursuing al-Qaida militants. But on Monday, the governor of Shabwa province — believed to be where many militants are hiding — announced in a speech that a joint team of solider and tribal fighters had carried out sweeps together for the first time in nearby mountains, hunting for al-Qaida fugitives.

Governor Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi said the Awalik tribe, one of the biggest in the province, had agreed to cooperate in fighting al-Qaida after a meeting last week with tribal representatives.
"The Awalik tribes assured that they are against al-Qaida and they are ready to confront them if any of their elements appeared in their regions," he said.

The Awalik is a large tribe made up of several branches, including one to which radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki belongs. The United States has put him on a kill-or-capture list, accusing him of becoming an active al-Qaida operative.

Al-Awlaki is on Yemen's list of wanted fugitives, meaning he would be among those the tribal militias are hunting, security officials said. But the tribal militias' focus appeared to be more on a cell of militants suspected in an attempt earlier this month to assassinate al-Ahmadi.

Yemeni security officials and several members of the Awalik tribe said the government was now providing monthly stipends and ammunition to tribal fighters to help in the hunt for al-Qaida members. The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the program.

Hassan Bannan, a leader of one of the Awalik branches in Shabwa and an opponent of the policy, told The Associated Press that more than 2,500 tribesmen have been divided into small groups to carry out daily searches. Another tribesman, Awad al-Awlaki, said 180 of his fellow tribesmen in the Shabwa town of al-Saaid each received 100 automatic rife bullets and a daily stipend of $50.

The central government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh has little direct control outside the capital, San'a, and powerful, well-armed tribes control large parts of the country.

Saleh often strikes alliances with tribes or parts of tribes, using money, jobs or other patronage to keep their support. But even allied tribes show great independence, bristle at central control and balk at following policies from San'a.

That makes enlisting tribes to hunt al-Qaida an uncertain prospect. Moreover, some tribes are believed to give refuge to al-Qaida fighters in their territory, so tribesmen may be unwilling to hunt down militants protected by their kinsmen — or risk intertribal clashes if they do.

"This will cause discord among members of the tribes. It will incite a war inside the tribes. Now each single tribe is divided between supporters and opponents," Bannan said.

Bannan doubted the government was serious in the policy, accusing it of trying to "deceive the Americans," which are funneling some $150 million in military assistance to Yemen this year along with a similar amount for humanitarian and development aid.

"They want to show to the Americans that they are serious about combating al-Qaida and at the same time they want to keep the aid flowing," he said.

A coalition of Yemen's biggest opposition parties issued a statement condemning the policy and saying the government was imitating the Awakening Councils in Iraq.

"Cloning other experiments implemented in other parts of the world, such as the Awakening Councils, and trying to implement them in Shabwa is like planting land mines," the coalition said. "It will bring nothing but destruction and discord. The fruits will threaten the future of coming generations."

Monday, 25 October 2010

We know Al Qaeda operatives by names, official says

By Nasser Arrabyee/25/10/2010

A Yemeni local official said Monday that authorities know by names Al Qaeda operatives in the southern province of Shabwah.

“ We know by names Al Qaeda operatives hiding in Al Saeed district, and w would give them a last chance to surrender themselves,” said Ali Hassan Al Ahmadi, governor of Shabwa.

Al Ahmadi, who was speaking to gathering of local tribesmen in Al Saeed district in Shabwah where a group of Al Qaeda operatives including Anwar Al Awlaki, are believed to be hiding, said, “ the mountains of Al Kor, Awlakis’ areas in Al Saeed, are not like Afghanistan’s Tora Pora as the local and western media portray them.”

The governor Al Ahmadi was attending a rally organized by the local authority to celebrate the “end of combing operations” against Al Qaeda hideouts in Al Saeed district in Shabwah.
The governor thanked the tribesmen who cooperated with the security forces in the combing operations over the last two days, although they did not find anything or arrest any suspect.

The governor of Shabwah, Al Ahmadi, along with high security and military officials escaped an assassination attempt late last September in Yashbom area of Al Saeed distrct. The security forces have been searching for those behind the assassination attempt since then without success.

Earlier this week ( Saturday Sunday), About 1000 young-men from the local tribes of Shabwah participated with a security campaign including about 1000 soldiers who implemented “the combing operations”.

Some tribesmen of Shabwah supported the participation of the tribesmen and some others refused and some played it down and it described it as just a show to exaggerate Al Qaeda presence to gain western support.

“Yes, of course we are cooperating with the security forces, because we do not want to be hit because of Al Qaeda,” said the local tribesman, Abdullah Al Mehdhar over phone from Al Saeed. “ There is huge series of mountains, and they can not be all combed easily,” he said when asked why the combing operations resulted in nothing.

However, some tribesmen say tribesmen who cooperated with the security forces were only relatives of the officials who are originally from Shabwah such as the deputy minister of defense Salem Al Qutn, and others who led the “combing operations”.

“It was just like a picnic, every group walked for about one km and returned, the time was only about three hours on Sunday , how they could find Al Qaeda,” said tribal sheikh Lahmar bin Salfooh, also from Al Saeed.

The local coalition of opposition parties which includes the Islamists, Socialists, and Nasserites, refused the participation of the tribesmen with the security forces in their hunt for Al Qaeda fighters. The opposition parties warned , in a statement, of more tribal conflicts.


WB to provide support for development in Yemen

Source: Yemen's official news agency (saba), 25/10/2010

Sana'a- Chief of Development Unit in the Near East and North Africa at the World Bank (WB) David Steel, reiterated on Monday the Bank's readiness to provide all kinds of support to Yemen's efforts in the fields of reforms and development. This came during a meeting gathered Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Abdul-Karim al-Arhabi and the WB's official, who reviewed a number of issues related to the bilateral cooperation between Yemen and the Bank and means of boosting it to serve the common goals.

The two sides discussed the progress in the implementation of WB-funded projects in Yemen and details relating to the implementation of the national agenda of reforms.At the meeting, al-Arhabi commended the WB's contributions to enhancing and supporting the development aspects in Yemen, confirming the government's keenness to strengthen the current and future cooperation relations with the Bank.The WB's official noted the level of the existing cooperation between Yemen and the Bank and the achievements made by Yemen in the implementation of reforms.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

US keen to upgrade Yemeni judicial system


on Sunday the keenness to develop the bilateral cooperation ties with Yemen in judicial and legal areas.

During his meeting with head of the Supreme Judicial Council and head of the Supreme Court Essam al- Samawi, the US ambassador said that the US is ready to present all requested assistance to develop judicial system in the Yemen.

The US will keep on supporting Yemeni efforts in fields of development, security and counterterrorism as well as in enhancing role of law and law enforcement, Feierstein said.

Al-Samawi acquainted the US ambassador with the developments exerted in the judicial area, topped by legalizing the Islamic Sharia and enhancing the judiciary independence.

He also confirmed the Yemeni Judiciary's commitment to implement all international conventions in a way that is not incompatible with the Yemeni constitution and laws and the Islamic Sharia as well.

He pinned hopes for an American support to strengthen the judicial cooperation between Yemen and the USA.

for the efforts and program aiming to develop the infrastructure for the judicial sector and training its cadres in addition to providing the Yemeni courts with new techniques to be connected in one network.

Yemen put bombers of sporting facilities on trial

Before the Gulf 20 football cup on November 22-December 5.
By Nasser Arrabyee/24/10/2010

Five Yemenis accused of bombing sporting facilities ahead of Gulf football cup were put on a speedy trial on Sunday.

In the first hearing held in the southern city of Aden, the five men were accused of bombing Al Wahada club earlier this month and trying to bomb many other places in Aden in an attempt to foil the coming regional football championship in Aden and Abyan.

The court adjourned the hearing to Wednesday 27th of October after the defendants refused the court-appointed lawyers and asked for their lawyers.
Four people were killed and 23 others injured in two successive bombings in Al Wahda sporting club in Aden on October 11th, 2010.

The Gulf 20, which include the six Gulf states and Iraq and Yemen, will be held in Yemen late next month.

Meanwhile, the Yemen official news agency said Sunday that official invitations were sent to the Gulf States officials to attend the opening of the championship.
The Yemeni Minister of Youth and Sports, Hamoud Ubad headed on to Qatar's capital Doha for a trip that will include the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Head of the Yemeni Football Association Ahmed al Eisi , who is accompanying the minister, said the delegation will hand invitations to Sports Ministers and Football Associations heads in the Arabian Gulf States to attend the opening of the 20th Gulf Cup in Yemen's business capital Aden in late November.

He affirmed all stadiums and facilities are ready for the championship, and that the trip aims to remove all doubts about the possibility of holding and hosting the championship on November 22 to December 5 in Aden and Abyan.

Yemen hunting 400 terrorists

Source: Yemen's official news agency (saba) , 24/10/2010

Sana'a - Yemen is hunting about 400 al Qaeda suspects including Yemenis and Saudis who are operating according to specific plans in some areas of the country, Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi has said.

After the recent terror operations seen as devastating blows to al Qaeda, we can describe the situation as stable in the country because the security authorities are tracking all suspects and criminal gangs, killing, wounding and arresting many of them, he said in his remarks to al Hayat newspaper.

The remarks coincided with a massive combing operation in search of al Qaeda operatives at mountainous and rugged areas in southeastern province of Shabwa.

The combing operation is being carried out at very rugged territories where Al-Qaeda tried to use the geographic structure to hide and plot.

Unfortunately, media is exaggerating about al Qaeda and the situation in Yemen, picturing al Qaeda as a factor destabilizing the country and striking security and development, he said. Moreover, the Yemeni-Saudi security coordination and cooperation and specially on tackling Al-Qaeda is perfect and it has resulted in devastating blows to terrorists several times, he said, noting that the presence of foreign troops on Yemen's soil is not the suitable solution to root out terrorism.

"The fight on terror in Yemen is the responsibility of the government and Yemeni people." Speaking about the 20th Gulf Football Cup set to be held in Aden and Abyan from November 22 to December 5, Al-Qirbi said Yemen is determined to host this championship and it assures all Gulf countries the situation is stable and Yemen can secure it. His final remark was given on the same day when Prime Minister Mujawar said the GCC countries has already approved that the championship would be held in Yemen as scheduled.

Yemen says foiled bomb plots ahead of football cup

Source: Reuters, 24/10/2010

SANAA-Yemeni police foiled a plot aiming to blow up several sites in the southern port city of Aden, which is due to host the Gulf Cup soccer tournament next month, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday.

Security forces have arrested eight suspects who planned attacks in Aden and tried to carry out subversive activities destabilizing the province, the ministry said in a statement.

A thirty-year old suspect, who had tried to place a plastic bag containing a 1,800 gram explosive device with a detonator and stopwatch at one site, had confessed, the ministry said.

On October 11, four people were killed after two bombs exploded at a sport stadium in Aden. The cases of 23 suspects were sent to a court for trial, the Defense Ministry said.

Yemeni officials have been trying to allay security fears over the blasts ahead of the regional soccer championship due to be held in Yemen next month.

A security official said the government had deployed 30,000 soldiers in the southern province of Aden to provide additional security ahead of the eight-team Gulf Cup football competition from November 22 to December 4.

Yemen is trying to quell a resurgent branch of al Qaeda which has increased its attacks on both Western and government targets in the Arabian Peninsula state, a neighbor of top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

Security during the Gulf Cup competition will be an important test of the government's ability to maintain order.

The government is also trying to cement a truce with Shi'ite rebels to end a northern civil war that raged on and off since 2004, and to defuse a separatist revolt in the south. It is under pressure from the West to resolve those domestic conflicts to focus on dealing with al Qaeda.

Radical Yemeni-US imam Awlaki in new Internet video

Source : AFP, 24/10/2010
SANAA — A new video featuring wanted radical Yemeni-US cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was posted on Saturday on the Al-Shammukh jihadist website.
Awlaki, believed to be holed up in a tribal area of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state of Yemen, is considered a dangerous "terrorist" by the US government.

In April, a US official said President Barack Obama's administration had authorised the targeted killing of Awlaki, after American intelligence agencies concluded the Muslim cleric was directly involved in anti-US plots.

In July, Washington said Awlaki was a key leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), placing him on its list of terrorism supporters, freezing his financial assets and banning any transactions with him.

Over the past decade, Yemen has morphed into a haven for violent extremists, becoming the headquarters of AQAP.

Experts have warned that the world faces an uphill battle to help prevent the country from becoming a failed state like Somalia and from allowing Al-Qaeda to threaten major oil shipping lanes.

Bruce Riedel, a Brookings Institution analyst who has advised the Obama administration on Yemen and other counter-terrorism issues, described AQAP as having a "robust and resilient capability" in Yemen.

Not only has it staged dozens of attacks in Yemen this year -- mainly on security forces but also on foreigners -- its senior leadership has also withstood Yemeni search-and-destroy missions, Riedel told AFP.

Though its capacity to launch attacks abroad remains unclear, he said, Awlaki appears to be a major threat because of his ability to recruit Americans for jihad.

Born in the southwestern US state of New Mexico, Awlaki, 39, rose to prominence last year after he was linked to a US army major who shot dead 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, and to a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on December 25 last year.

Earlier this week, the US military revealed that Awlaki had been invited to a lunch at the Pentagon in the months after the 9/11 attacks.

The invitation was part of a an effort by the office of the secretary of defense to reach out to the Muslim community after the September 11, 2001 attacks, military spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan told AFP.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Security developments in Yemen

Source: Reuters,23/10/2010
Yemen is trying to quell a resurgent wing of al Qaeda that has increased attacks on Western and regional targets in the Arabian Peninsula state, neighbour to oil giant Saudi Arabia. It is also trying to cement a truce with Shi'ite rebels to end a civil war in the north that has raged on and off since 2004, and to end a separatist rebellion in the south.

Following are security developments in Yemen in the past month (* denotes new or updated item):

* HADRAMOUT, Oct 22 - A Yemeni colonel in the intelligence service was killed in Mukalla, centre of the southeastern province of Hadramout. Al Qaeda fighters were believed to be behind the attack.

SANAA, Oct 22 - Yemen security forces arrest 10 people, including 5 Pakistanis for distributing "extremist jihadist materials that incites killing and hatred" at a mosque in the Dalaa Hamdan region, west of capital Sanaa. No information given on background of Pakistani detainees.

SANAA, Oct 20 - Yemeni authorities offer a reward of $50,000 for information on the whereabouts of two Saudi "terrorists", Turki al-Shahrani and Ahmed al-Jasser, the Interior Ministry said on its website.

SANAA, Oct 18 - A Yemeni court sentenced to death an al Qaeda bomb-maker.

ADEN, Oct 17 - Yemeni aircraft bombed al Qaeda positions in southern Yemen, a government official said, after militants ambushed a tank column, killing four soldiers.

ABYAN, Oct 16 - Two al Qaeda militants died in a suicide car bombing against an army patrol, the Defence Ministry website said. The website denied reports that two tanks had been destroyed in the attack near the southern town of Mudiyah, but did not give details of damages or casualties.

SANAA, Oct 16 - Authorities arrested Saleh al-Rimi, a Saudi-based Yemeni accused of providing funds to al Qaeda, as he arrived at Sanaa airport, the Interior Ministry said on its website.

ABYAN, Oct 16 - A car bomb wounded a senior intelligence officer and his assistant in the southern province of Abyan.

SANAA, Oct 16 - Authorities offered a reward of nearly $100,000 for information on eight wanted al Qaeda suspects.

ABYAN, Oct 14 - The governor of Abyan escaped unharmed from an assassination attempt by suspected al Qaeda militants. The chief of police in the district of Mudiyah was killed in a suspected al Qaeda attack.

ADEN, Oct 12 - Police arrested 19 al Qaeda members in Aden after two explosions at a sports club killed two people.

ABYAN, Oct 10 - Gunmen riding motorcycles killed an intelligence officer in the southern province of Abyan, a security official said. He said the officer was one of 54 security officials that al Qaeda's regional wing had threatened to kill in a statement distributed last month.

LAHJ, Oct 10 - A gunman was killed and two soldiers injured in a clash in the southern province of Lahj.

HADRAMOUT, Oct 9 - Masked gunmen killed an intelligence officer in a market west of Mukalla. Al Qaeda fighters were believed to have carried out the attack.

SANAA, Oct 9 - Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said in statements posted on the Internet that it was behind a Sept 25 attack on security forces in the capital Sanaa and two earlier raids in the southern province of Lahj.

ABYAN, Oct 9 - Gunmen attacked a security patrol in the town of Lawdar in Abyan, injuring two soldiers, a local official said.

SANAA, Oct 6 - A rocket attack in Sanaa targeted a vehicle carrying the deputy chief of the British mission in Yemen and a gunman opened fire at an Austrian-owned oil and gas firm, killing a Frenchman.

SHABWA, Sept 29 - Gunmen attacked the convoy of the governor of the southern province of Shabwa and the deputy head of the army staff, killing one soldier and wounding four.

AL-HOTA, Sept 26 - Government forces killed five al Qaeda militants and detained 32 suspects during operations in which two soldiers were killed.

SANAA, Sept 25 - Gunmen opened fire on security forces in Sanaa, injuring several, in a rare attack in the capital.

AL-HOTA, Sept 24 - A government siege of al-Hota ended after security forces took control of the town.

AL-HOTA, Sept 22 - Four people were killed and three wounded in clashes between the government and suspected al-Qaeda fighters. Government forces launched a counterattack using planes and tanks. (Reporting by Mohammed Mokhashaf in Aden, and Mohammed Ghobari and Mohamed Sudam in Sanaa; Compiled by Dubai bureau)

Friday, 22 October 2010

Yemen intelligence colonel killed 'by Qaeda'

Source: AFP, 23/10/2010

ADEN, Yemen — Gunmen in south Yemen shot dead a colonel in the country's intelligence service on Friday, a security official said, blaming the attack on Al-Qaeda.

The official said two masked men on a motorcycle opened fire on Colonel Mohammed Abdel Aziz Bou Abess near his home in Mukalla in the southeast province of Hadramawt province before making their escape.

The attack bore the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the official said on condition of anonymity.

On Tuesday a commander said Yemeni troops are fighting a guerrilla war against Al-Qaeda in southern towns in which they are struggling to come to terms with the hit-and-run tactics of the enemy.

"We are engaged in what amounts to a guerrilla war with Al-Qaeda in the streets and neighbourhoods," the deputy head of security in the Abyan province town of Mudia, Colonel Mohammed al-Khodr, told AFP.

On Wednesday, Yemen issued a wanted list for two Al-Qaeda suspects that offered a cash reward of 50,000 dollars (36,000 euros) to anyone providing information leading to their capture.
The interior ministry in Sanaa said Ahmed Abdel Aziz Jasser al-Jasser and Turki Mohammad Quleiss al-Shahrani were "among the most dangerous Al-Qaeda operatives to have committed acts of terrorism and sabotage" and posted pictures of them on its website.

The authorities in Yemen, the ancestral home of Al-Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden, have been battling a resurgence by the jihadist network, which has claimed attacks on embassies, oil installations, foreigners working in the oil sector and tourists.

The militants are active in eastern Yemen and in the south, where they have taken advantage of a growing secessionist movement and popular opposition to the central government

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Yemeni predicament

Source: Al-Arabiya

By: Hassan Haidar 21\10\2010

Sitting around the oval-shaped table are a number of generals with stars shining on their shoulders, counterterrorism experts and advisors on the affairs of the countries of the Arab and Muslim world.

Some of them have previously served in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries in the Middle East. Before them is a large, colored and detailed map, full of signs, circles, arrows and questions marks. As for the topic of the meeting, it is nothing but the “Yemeni predicament”.

The reason that drove the meeting’s organizers to select such a title is that, after many long years of trying to understand the situation in Yemen, how matters take place there and where they are heading, the answer to many of the questions they raise remains obscure, and they are still unable to decipher how this country is ruled and to solve the riddle of the intertwined relations between its constituents, or to lay out a successful plan to combat terrorism, which is spreading dangerously on its soil and threatening their own countries as well.

Those same people had about a year ago, voluntarily or out of necessity, reached a conclusion that amounted to abandoning the idea of direct intervention there by air or by land, and to be content with providing financial assistance, training national security forces, which bear the burden of uprooting terrorism, and offering similar aid for development.

Yet some of them still raise intriguing questions to which answers, even approximate answers, must be found.

That is because it is perhaps contingent on them to define the strategy governing relations with a number of similar countries in the region, countries of which the resources are growing in importance every day, along with the growing danger posed by their extremists, which explains the decision to hold such a meeting.

Among such questions are for example: how does the Yemeni regime bring together relying on the support of the tribes and of Islamists, and defending those people from their own extremist sons, who are in turn fighting against it?

And how can it combine fighting Al-Qaeda in some regions and appointing the man whom the West considers to be the organization’s “spiritual leader”, Sheikh Abdul Majeed Al-Zindani, as head of the supervising committee for national dialogue, which is in charge of negotiating with opposition parties over amending the electoral law?

Or how is the army unable to win the battle in the two cities of Loder and Mudia, where terrorists have adopted an attack and retreat method, when the government then sends around 30 thousand troops with their machinery and armored vehicles to these same areas in order to provide security for the “Gulf 20” football tournament?

Why do the tribes that support the regime consider that the West is exaggerating the threat of Al-Qaeda because it wants to impose its hegemony over Yemen, and that the President is going along with it because he finds in the war against the organization the opportunity to strike against those who oppose him domestically while the tribes continue to support him?

If such a threat has been exaggerated, then what is the meaning of the repeated attacks against Western embassies in Sanaa, the latest of which targeted a senior British diplomat a few days ago?

And why does the Yemeni government fiercely resist US pressures to exert more effort in combating terrorism, while it asserts every day that it is waging a merciless war against Al-Qaeda?

If the government in Sanaa always asks for more Western and Arab assistance, why does it refrain from providing evidence that such assistance is being well-spent, rather than disappearing in the corridors of corruption and nepotism?

Why do most Western governments in their own assemblies accuse the Yemeni regime of evading its responsibilities in resolving the country’s problems, and then continue to support it financially and politically?

After long hours of discussion, those participating the meeting have finally agreed to publish an advertisement in the world’s major newspapers, television networks and media outlets, offering an appealing reward to anyone who can provide conclusive answers.

*Published by the London-based DAR ALHAYAT on Oct. 21, 2010

West may fuel Yemen, Somali militancy-report

Source: Reuters, By William Maclean
* Security focus hurts Somalia, Yemen peace efforts-report
* Yemen-Somalia corrupt ties offer militants scope
* New policy instruments like sanctions can work

LONDON- Western counter-terrorism support for state security forces in Yemen and neighbouring Somalia may actually be fuelling militancy because such backing is often seen locally as a form of aggression, a report said on Thursday.

"Western policies are contributing to a sense among some Yemenis and Somalis of being 'under attack' and are drawing them towards radicalisation and militancy," the report from the Chatham House think tank said.

"Instead of more military training or more missile strikes, there need to be new political configurations that can support networks of resistance to terrorism," the report by associate fellows Sally Healy and Ginny Hill said.

Yemen, next door to oil exporter Saudi Arabia, jumped to the forefront of Western security concerns after a botched Dec. 25 bid to blow up a U.S. airliner over Detroit claimed by Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
In Somalia, across the Gulf of Aden, al Shabaab rebels have been fighting a weak transitional government for three years and now controls much of the south and centre of the country.

Both groups have recruited Western-based militants.

Speaking in Washington on Aug. 25, U.S. officials said the United States would likely increase strikes against al Qaeda in Yemen, seeking to apply the same degree of pressure there as covert drone attacks in Pakistan have had on al Qaeda there.

The report said Washington was arming, training and funding local proxies in Yemen to carry out its counter-terrorism aims, while in Somalia a Western-funded African peacekeeping force has struggled to support a weak transitional government.

This security emphasis undermined "the balance of political and economic actions" needed for state-building, it said.

"Attempts to achieve stabilisation by building a state-level security apparatus ... are often perceived by the local population as a form of aggression."

Local structures could build opposition to extremism, but encouraging this process without distorting it was a challenge.

The report argued counter-terrorism was also being hindered by lucrative business networks spanning the Gulf of Aden.

Some analysts say regional vested interests including some state officials have ties to smugglers of migrants, arms, fuel and drugs who dominate maritime traffic across the Gulf of Aden.

"A number of `shadow networks' exist within and between Yemen and Somalia, facilitating a flourishing regional trade in arms, people-smuggling, and fuel-smuggling," the report said. (Editing by Noah Barkin)

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Many Yemeni children suffering acute malnutrition, UNICEF says

Source: CNN

Nearly half the children in Yemen's troubled northern province are suffering from malnutrition, the humanitarian agency UNICEF warned Wednesday.

The United Nations children's agency supported a government screening that found 50 percent of the 26,246 children in five districts of Saada to be at risk of death because of inadequate nutrition. In some areas, as many as three out of four children were acutely malnourished.

"Malnutrition is the main underlying cause of death for young children in Yemen, and therefore this grim situation could spell disaster for the children of Saada," said Geert Cappelaere, the UNICEF representative in Yemen.

"As winter approaches, thousands of children are at serious risk if we are not able to act immediately," Cappelaere said.

Malnutrition was already a problem throughout Yemen, which is one of the poorest countries in the region and is hampered by high unemployment, inflation, drought and severe food shortages. The World Food Programme estimates that almost 3 million people in Yemen face severe food insecurities.

In Saada, the situation was aggravated by a protracted conflict between government forces and militant Shiite rebels, UNICEF said.
Efforts to deliver food and other basic relief items have been impeded by the "extremely volatile security situation," the agency said.

The United Nations estimates that more than 300,000 Yemenis have been displaced by six rounds of fighting since 2004 between the government and Houthi rebels demanding autonomy for their community. Though Yemen is mostly Sunni, the rebels are followers of slain Shiite cleric Hussein al-Houthi.
A cease-fire has been in effect since February, but U.N. agencies say the truce is shaky.

Yemen offers YR 10 mln reward for information on two terrorists

Source: Saba

Yemen's Interior Ministry announced on Wednesday a YR 10 million reward for any information identifying the whereabouts of two wanted terrorists.
The Ministry identified the terrorists' names as Turky Saad Mohamed Qalis al-Shahrani and Ahmed Abdul Aziz Jassere al-Jasser.
The Ministry urged all citizens to cooperate with the security services through providing any information about the two terrorists or other terrorist elements, warning against sheltering any of them.

Closing French school in Yemen makes terrorists happy, minister says

By Nasser Arrabyee/20/10/2010
The Yemeni foreign minister said Wednesday that closing the French school in Yemen would be in the interest of the terrorists.

“Closing the French school will only achieve the goals of the terrorists,” said Abu Bakr Al Querbi, the Yemen foreign minister .

“We need to strengthen and deepen our scientific and cultural relations to prevent the terrorists from achieving their goals,” he said in a launch ceremony of exhibition of photos organized by the French embassy in Sana’a on the 40th anniversary of the Yemeni-French relations.
The French school closed in Sana’a closed on October 13th, 2010, after France advised the French people in Yemen to leave the country because of security threats.

The sources in the French school said the school may reopen at the beginning of next February.
“We were told we are on leave until February 1, 2010,” said one of the staff members of the school.

It’s Paris decision not theirs, so we may and may not reopen at the beginning of February,” said the staff member who asked not to be named.

The French school, which is financed by the French ministry of education and the parents , has about 100 students, about 70 of them have already left Yemen.

The remaining 30 students are from Yemen, Djibouti, and Algeria and other countries.
This is the second closure of the school within two years.

No Information from Yemen Implicating al-Rimi in Financing Al Qaeda- Saudi Interior Ministry

Source: Asharq Alawsat

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry informed Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday that it had not received any information from Yemen implicating Yemeni national Saleh al-Rimi of involvement with the Al Qaeda organization.

Yemeni security forces had arrested Saleh al-Rimi, aged 33, on suspicion of being an Al Qaeda financier, in Sanaa airport on Friday upon his arrival from Saudi Arabia. The Yemeni Interior Ministry had said that al-Rimi was arrested after his name appeared on a Yemeni security list as an alleged Al Qaeda financier.

However Major General Mansour al-Turki, the Saudi Interior Ministry's security spokesman, in response to a question by Asharq Al-Awsat, said "I would like to confirm that we have not received any information from our brothers in Yemen implicating Yemeni citizen al-Rimi with any involvement in financing activities for the Al Qaeda organization."

The available information on Saleh al-Rimi reveals that he resides in Saudi Arabia on a permanent basis, and that Saudi Arabia had no information linking him in any terrorist activities. Major General Al-Turki also confirmed that the Saudi authorities do not have the right to restrict anybody's freedom of movement unless it has evidence that give the authorities legal grounds for arrest.

According to the Yemeni Interior Ministry, the Yemeni security services in Sanaa airport arrested al-Rimi because his name was on Yemen's most wanted list.

The Yemeni Interior Ministry, on its internet website, revealed that the Yemeni security authorities had arrested Saleh al-Rimi, aged 33, a Yemeni national residing permanently in Saudi Arabia, upon his arrival in Sanaa from Yemen on Friday.

The Yemeni Interior Ministry added that Saleh al-Rimi had been arrested because his name was included on the Yemeni wanted list for allegedly financing Al Qaeda in Yemen.

The Interior Ministry also revealed that al-Rimi is the second person to be arrested in Sanaa International airport this week after an individual accused of kidnapping a Japanese citizen in November 2009 was arrested on Thursday.

However in response to a question from Asharq Al-Awsat, the Saudi Interior Ministry categorically denied receiving any information from the Yemenis implicating Saleh al-Rimi in financing Al Qaeda.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Al Qaeda fighting 'guerrilla war in southern Yemen'

Source: AFP, 19/10/2010
ADEN, Yemen — Yemeni troops are fighting a guerrilla war against Al-Qaeda in southern towns in which they are struggling to come to terms with the hit-and-run tactics of the enemy, a commander said on Tuesday.

"We are engaged in what amounts to a guerrilla war with Al-Qaeda in the streets and neighbourhoods," the deputy head of security in the Abyan province town of Mudia, Colonel Mohammed al-Khodr, told AFP.

"So far we have not managed to win the battle and are facing difficulties as most of the fighters are drawn from among the towns' residents," Khodr said.

"Al-Qaeda militants have been using hit-and-run tactics and infiltrating neighbourhoods of the towns (of Mudia and Loder) from the surrounding mountains to carry out attacks on military posts," he added.
Tuesday afternoon, fighter jets fired four missiles on Thououba, a near Mudia, witnesses told AFP.
A security official confirmed the raid, with authorities saying alleged Al-Qaeda leader Abdul Monem al-Fahtani is hiding there.

This is the third raid in the past three days against villages located in the same region.
On Sunday, the military launched air strikes against suspected Al-Qaeda positions in the mountains outside Mudia, killing one civilian and wounding two, medical and security sources said.
Since Thursday, at least a dozen people have been killed in violence blamed on Al-Qaeda around the two towns, which have also seen repeated protests in recent months by supporters of the Southern Movement, a coalition of groups seeking autonomy or independence for the region.

On Monday evening, militants wounded three soldiers in an attack on a tanker truck outside Loder, a security source said.

Militants also fired seven shells from the town centre at an army post in a northern neighbourhood, the source said, adding that dozens of civilians were fleeing Loder for the Abyan provincial capital Zinjibar.

The United States has stepped up its military assistance to Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in the face of fears that it has become a major base for the network's operations

Saudi says it warned of al-Qaida threat from Yemen

Source: AP, 19/10/2010

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia- Saudi Arabia warned other countries of a new terror threat by an al-Qaida offshoot based in neighboring Yemen, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

The Saudi warning is the latest in a series of alerts from security services in the United States and North Africa that have spiked fears of potential terror attacks in France and across Europe.
France said Monday that Saudi intelligence warned European officials that "Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was doubtless active or envisioned being active" on the "European continent, notably France."

Asked about France's comments, Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Gen. Mansour al-Turki told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Saudi officials had shared intelligence.
"Saudi Arabia has exchanged information with concerned parties as part of its effort to combat al-Qaida terrorism," he said. He did not name specific countries.

French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said Sunday that France had received warning of a potential al-Qaida attack "in the last few hours, few days."

This followed other warnings.
Hortefeux said the international police organization Interpol signaled on Sept. 9 an "Islamist threat on a world scale, and notably on the European continent." A week later, France received a report — later judged not fully credible — of a possible attack by a woman suicide bomber.
Intelligence sources in North Africa and the United States also contacted France about a potential threat, Hortefeux said.

Local war in southern Yemen pits government against militants

Source : Christian Science Monitor: By Laura Kasinof
Sanaa, Yemen -A war has broken out in volatile southern Yemen between the government and local militants, further threatening the Arab world's poorest country.

Yemen attack underscores increasing Al Qaeda threat Yemen goes on offensive against Al Qaeda Yemen: Never mind Anwar al-Awlaki, the economy is a bigger threat This weekend, the government launched air strikes in the Abyan city of Moudia, which followed last month's aerial raids on a suspected Al Qaeda stronghold in neighboring Shabwa province. And since the fighting erupted in August, there have been nearly weekly skirmishes between soldiers and militants the government says belong to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

“The battle in Abyan and Shabwa is growing; this, after all, is the home region of AQAP's commander, Nasir al-Wihayshi,” says Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen specialist at Princeton University, in an email. “AQAP is trying to convince – through both intimidation and persuasion – members of Yemen's security services and military to come over to its side. For its part, the Yemeni government is striking back both through military strikes and by attempting to turn the tribes against al-Qaeda.”
Since the unification of north and south Yemen in 1990, the south has been marginalized both politically and economically. Southern Yemenis have little representation in the central government and, despite being home to the majority of Yemen's oil reserves, the south remains desperately poor.
Analysts worry that upset southern tribal factions have turned their backs on Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh and are now harboring AQAP militants.

Assassination, then assault
The weekend clashes between the government and suspected AQAP militants in Abyan lasted until early Monday morning, according to tribal sources in the region.

“Confrontations between security forces and Al Qaeda resulted in the deaths of more than six militants during the past few days,” Mohamed Khader, deputy director of security for Abyan, told local press on Monday. “[Security forces] are conducting operation to hunt down 20 terrorists who fled to mountains in the region.”

The assault came just days after militants assassinated Moudia's security director, Osama Mohamed Salem, and attempted to kill the province’s governor, Ahmed Al Misri.

Additionally, AQAP – a group that shares Osama bin Laden's worldview but is largely separate from his organization – released an online recording last week announcing the formation of an Aden-Abyan army.

“We have become closer to placing the first building blocks for the Aden Abyan army, and it is a line of defense for the nation and its religion,” said AQAP leading figure Qassim Al Raymi in the audio recording.

Strategic landscape
Fouad Selahy, a political sociology professor at Sanaa University, says AQAP leaders chose Abyan for its strategic location. It sits next to large desert areas that facilitate the passage of militants from Saudi Arabia and it's close to the sea, providing another gateway for jihadis.

However, Prof. Selahy added that he doesn’t believe every attack against the Yemeni military in southern Yemen is necessarily carried out by Al Qaeda, even though the Yemeni government may say otherwise.

“When the government attacks any governorate, the young people will retaliate and use weapons against the government,” he says. “The planes are striking their regions, the planes are destroying their homes and farms. These people are not necessarily Al Qaeda.”

One civilian was killed in the weekend attacks, while two women were injured, according to the local Yemeni press.

“Yesterday the planes hit the citizens, even women and children,” says Abyan-resident Nasser Al Fadhli, brother of southern separatist leader Tariq Al Fadhli, in a phone interview. “There was nothing called Al Qaeda present in the place of the attacks.”

The government calls everyone who opposes it "Al Qaeda" so they are able to attack the southerners, says Mr. Fadhli, indicative of the marginalization southerners feel regardless of their affiliation with a jihadist organization.

In addition to having an Al Qaeda presence, Abyan is a stronghold of Yemen's southern separatist movement. The separatists, who call for the recreation of an independent southern state, have used violence against security forces in the past. While they share a common enemy – the Yemeni government – with AQAP militants, there is no proof that separatist leaders work directly with AQAP.

Yemen Says Offensive Has Cornered Militants

Source: Wall Street Journal, By OLIVER HOLMES
SANA'A—Yemeni security officials said Tuesday that government forces have trapped al Qaeda militants in a village in the southern province of Abyan after a week of bombardments that have driven hundreds of civilians out of the area.

The offensive is the latest government effort aimed at uprooting militants affiliated with the local chapter of the global terror group here. The government has targeted at least two other towns in coordinated military efforts in recent months.

The government has taken credit for making gains against the militants in those operations, though the outcome in the remote villages where the fighting is taking place is difficult to accurately gauge. Previous claims that government forces have killed or captured top militant leaders in earlier offensives have, on occasion, proven to be inaccurate.

The U.S. is backing the Sana'a government in its fight, with training and special-operations forces. It's unclear what role, if any, the American government is playing in the current offensive in Abyan. A U.S. spokesman for the embassy declined to comment about U.S. involvement in the current operation.

The government offensive is centered in the region from which al Qaeda earlier this month declared the formation of a new militia aimed at toppling the government. Over the weekend, the Yemeni military pounded the city of Mudiyah—just over 150 miles southeast of the capital Sana'a—with tank and artillery shells, as well as airstrikes. The barrage has sent more than 300 civilians fleeing the city, according to a Yemeni human-rights organization.

Security officials say al Qaeda militants have fled to the village of Tha'aba, where they are now encircled by government forces.

"Al Qaeda elements are using women and children as human shields after we surrounded them in Tha'aba," Abyan deputy police chief Muhammed al Khader told reporters Tuesday. "We have evacuated people in the area, and security forces are still chasing 20 militants who fled to the mountains and valleys," he said.

The military claimed they destroyed "a number of al Qaeda's hideouts" in Mudiyah and the adjacent districts. Fighter jets roared south over Sana'a Tuesday morning. Eyewitnesses in Abyan said air raids had stopped, but gunfire could still be heard.

The military has said the offensive was in retaliation for the assassination of Mudiyah's security director, Abdullah al Baham, last Thursday. Later that day, Abyan governor Ahmed al Maisari was ambushed in the same area as he was inspecting the site of the assassination, local security officials said. The governor escaped unharmed, but militants killed his brother.

Sana'a launched two, large-scale skirmishes on the nearby towns of al Hota and Lawder in August and September, leaving dozens dead.

U.S. fears over Yemen were ratcheted up after Yemen's al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for the failed attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day. The group has also been blamed for two attacks on British embassy vehicles this year.

A recent worry for Sana'a is that the volatility and mayhem of Abyan could spill over into the nearby, southern port city of Aden, an ex-British colony and the economic capital of the republic. The city hosts an international soccer tournament next month, but regular bombs attacks and violent clashes with police have cast doubts over the feasibility of hosting the event

Yemen says has 11.9 billion barrels of oil reserves

Source: official Yemen news agency( Saba)
SANA'A-Yemen has 11.9 billion barrels of oil reserves at oil production fields, head of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Authority (PEPA) has said.

Nasr al Humaidi said the figure was based on the study the authority had conducted on the reserves, saying the study leads to a conclusion that more efforts should be made at these blocks to complete producing these reserves.

Using modern technology will help report higher figures of Yemen's oil reserves in the future, he said.
Exploratory operations at the blocks are concentrated and the current production and exploration operations cover 25 per cent of the total blocks with geological structures suitable for oil and gas presence, he said.
The operations are being implemented at 35 blocks, while Yemen has about 100 blocks, he made clear.

There is still a lot of work ahead of us and Yemen remains at the beginning as an oil producer country, he said.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Terrorist threatens to destroy court and judge after death sentence

By Nasser Arrabyee/18/10/2010

A Yemeni man was sentenced to death Monday after being convicted of participating in seven terrorist operations in Yemen.

Chaired by Judge Muhsen Alwan, the State Security Court handed down the death sentence to Saleh Al Shawash, who is known as Al Qaeda explosives expert.

The defendant Al Shawash, in his 30s, did not for an appeal, but instead, he threatened the court and the Judge.

“ God willing, your end will be at our hands, and we have started from Abyan,” Al Shawas said, speaking to the court panel and the prosecutor. He referred to the ongoing war between Al Qaeda and the Yemeni forces in Abyan.

Al Shawas confessed to participating in seven operations by Al Qaeda against military and security targets in Hudhrmout in which several soldiers were killed and injured.

The court started the trial of Al Shawash on September 21, after he was arrested on January 2010. The defendant confessed to the accusations and asked the judge to issue the verdict in the second session last week.

Al Shawash was within the group of the Al Qaeda leader in Hudhrmout, Hamza Al Kuaiti, who was killed with four other militants in security operation in Tareem city on August 11th, 2008. Al Shawash escaped to Mareb where he stayed in hiding until he was arrested on January 2010 in Hudhmout when he was trying to implement a suicide bombing, as the security sources said at the time.

The prosecutor said during the hearings that Al Shawash was Al Qaeda expert in explosives, and he was training the suicide bombers.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Yemeni warplanes bomb al-Qaida hide-outs, killing 5 militants

Source : CP, By Ahmed Al-Haj, 17/10/2010
SAN'A, Yemen — A Yemeni official says warplanes have bombed al-Qaida hide-outs in the country's south, killing five militants.

The deputy governor of Abyan province, Salih al-Shamsi, says the airstrikes targeted areas around the town of Moudia and destroyed weapons caches.

Yemen is battling a resurgent al-Qaida presence in the country that also drew deep international concern after the terror network's local offshoot claimed responsibility for an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner in December.

Residents said Sunday's airstrikes killed three civilians and destroyed six houses.
The deputy governor denied there were civilian deaths, saying residents had evacuated the area.
In the nearby town of Lawder, gunmen attacked an army truck carrying food supplies to Moudia.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

US terror war in Yemen frustrated by politics

Source: The Associated Press, By HAMZA HENDAWI

SAN'A, Yemen -- For nearly a year, the United States has waged a war against al-Qaida in Yemen, largely in deep secrecy. But the militants appear unfazed, and the fragile government of this poor Arab nation is pushing back against American pressure to escalate the fight.

The regime of Yemen's longtime leader, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, is weak, dependent for its survival on the loyalty of unruly tribes and alliances with Muslim extremists. Yemeni authorities also fear too harsh a fight against al-Qaida will alienate a deeply conservative Muslim population where anti-American sentiment is widespread. As a result, the main Yemeni tactic is often to negotiate with tribes to try to persuade them to hand over fugitive militants.
Yemeni officials say Washington is pressing them to be more aggressive.
"The Americans are pushing hard and the government is resisting hard," said Yasser al-Awadi, a senior lawmaker close to Saleh, Yemen's leader of 32 years.

Al-Qaida militants have been building up their presence for several years in Yemen, finding refuge with tribes in the remote mountain ranges where San'a has little control. But they made a stunning show of their international reach in December, when they allegedly plotted a failed Christmas Day attempt to blow up a passenger jet over the U.S. The Obama administration branded Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula a global threat, and has dramatically stepped up its alliance with Saleh's regime to uproot it.

Around 50 elite U.S. military experts are in the country training Yemeni counterterrorism forces - a number that has doubled over the past year. Washington is funneling some $150 million in military assistance to Yemen this year for helicopters, planes and other equipment, along with a similar amount for humanitarian and development aid. San'a says its troops are fanned out around the country, hunting for militants. Still, there's been little visible progress.

In recent weeks, al-Qaida gunmen have been bold enough to carry out assaults in the capital, San'a, including a failed ambush on a top British diplomat in her car. The government touted as a major success a fierce weeklong siege in September by Yemeni troops against an al-Qaida force in the provincial town of Houta, but most of the militants escaped into nearby, impenetrable mountains.

Days after that siege, the governor of the same province, Shabwa, narrowly escaped gunmen who ambushed his convoy. In nearby Abyan province, an al-Qaida campaign of assassinations that has killed dozens of police and army officers prompted authorities last month to ban motorcycles in urban areas to try to stop cycle-mounted gunmen.

Meanwhile, al-Qaida in Yemen's top leadership remains intact, issuing a Web video last week threatening to cross into neighboring Saudi Arabia to assassinate senior security officials. "Look under your beds before you sleep, you might find one of our bombs," the video warned Saudis, whose government is viewed by al-Qaida as not Islamic, corrupt and too close to America.

And the hunt for Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical Islamic cleric who Washington says has become a leader in the group, may have gone cold. The governor of Shabwa province, where al-Awlaki is believed to be hiding in the mountains, told The Associated Press he hasn't been sighted in two months and cast doubt whether the cleric was still in the province.

American officials have been careful not to show any sign of friction. "We believe that abilities of the Yemeni security system are constantly increasing," the State Department's No. 3 diplomat, William Burns, told reporters after meeting Saleh last week.

Still, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi recently brought one dispute out into the open, saying San'a had put a stop to American warplanes or drones carrying out strikes against al-Qaida targets, a tactic that Washington has relied on against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Pakistan.

In December, three airstrikes were carried out against purported al-Qaida targets in two provinces and outside San'a. At least six al-Qaida militants are thought to have been killed in those strikes, along with more than 40 civilians. In a Sept. 30 interview with the Arab daily Al-Hayat, al-Qirbi acknowledged the assaults were carried out by U.S. aircraft.

"American strikes have ceased since December because the Yemeni government insisted that these strikes don't yield any results," he said.

American officials have refused to confirm that U.S. planes carried out the strikes. U.S. officials contacted the past week for further comment also declined to speak.

Yemen at first said its warplanes carried out the strikes to avoid an angry public backlash, according to Yemeni officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the subject.

Visible signs of the American counterterror campaign here are few. Deep in the country of 23 million people, villagers report the round-the-clock sound of drones, presumed to be American craft watching militants. Dozens of informers have been recruited in recent months to keep U.S. counterterrorism officials posted on the militants' movements and chatter, Yemeni security officials say. They also say the Yemenis submit to their U.S. counterparts daily progress reports on efforts to track down al-Awlaki.

With U.S. airstrikes off the table - and American officials saying there is no intention for U.S. troops to fight on the ground - it is up to Yemen's police and military to wage the battle. But their ability to operate is deeply hampered.

Al-Qaida fighters - estimated to number around 300 - have built up strongholds in the provinces of Shabwa, Abyan, Jouf and Marib, regions of daunting mountain ranges where central authority has nearly no presence. At least 70 percent of Shabwa, for example, is a no-go area for security forces, leaving most under the control of armed tribesmen who offer protection to al-Qaida militants, Yemeni security officials say.

Yemen and Washington also disagree on how much of a real threat al-Qaida presents. Yemeni lawmakers and tribal chiefs often maintain that the danger is a myth propagated by Washington to impose its control over the country - or by the San'a government to give it an excuse to strike its domestic enemies.

The United States sees al-Awlaki as the most notorious English-speaking advocate of terrorism directed at America, with a dangerously strong appeal to Muslims in the West, and Washington has put him on a list of militants to kill or capture. U.S. investigators say e-mails link him to the Army psychiatrist accused of last year's killings at Fort Hood, Texas, and that he helped prepare Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, accused in the Christmas airline bombing attempt.
But in Yemen - al-Awlaki's ancestral land - only a few people have heard of him. Those who have say they cannot understand what the fuss is all about. And if he is captured, he will not be extradited to the United States because Yemen's constitution forbids it, Foreign Minister al-Qirbi has said.

"I believe his role and importance are grossly exaggerated," Shabwa's governor Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi told AP. "I don't think that what the Americans are saying about him is totally baseless, but I am confident that it is exaggerated." More broadly, the government is also reluctant to wage an all-out fight because of Saleh's alliances with militant Islamic groups, including jihadi veterans of the wars in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Chechnya and Iraq. He has let their influence grow as part of an elaborate divide-and-rule game that has helped him stay in power.

In a sign of his accommodation with them, Saleh in late September named powerful Sheik Abdul-Majid al-Zindani - considered by Washington "a specially designated global terrorist" - as the "religious overseer" of the ruling party's ongoing negotiations with opposition parties over electoral reform.

Al-Zindani, who is thought by the United States to be a one-time spiritual mentor of Osama bin Laden, has warned that the U.S.-backed fight against al-Qaida could lead to "foreign occupation" of Yemen.

"The regime has from the start depended on a tripod of military, religious and tribal bases," said prominent analyst Abdel-Ghani al-Iryani. "It continues to think to this day that it's in control of the situation, but I personally think they no longer can."
Associated Press Writer Ahmed al-Haj contributed to this report.