Al-Qaeda's kidnapping business
US drone attacks continue, endangering delicate negotiations to free kidnapping victims, says Nasser Arrabyee
Al-Qaeda in Yemen has turned to kidnapping to make money for fighting back the Yemeni troops and loyal tribesmen who now launch what seems to be an unprecedented war with direct and indirect support from the US and Saudi Arabia.
Al-Qaeda demands millions and millions of dollars for releasing the four hostages it kidnapped so far, including a Swiss woman, a Frenchman, a Saudi diplomat, and a Yemeni high ranking army officer.
The tribal mediator who met the Swiss woman hostage told Al-Ahram Weekly that Al-Qaeda kidnappers want a lot of money for releasing the Swiss English teacher who was kidnapped in the middle of March from the western province of Hodeidah. Now she is somewhere in Shabwah province, about 1,000km from where she was kidnapped.
"I met the Swiss hostage, and I have a video clip of her talking on my mobile, she is fine," said the tribal mediator who preferred not to be named now as negations are not over yet.
For the Swiss woman, we told the kidnappers to reduce the amount of money a little bit. "I suggested a reasonable amount of money and sent them SMS and they replied that they will call me on 24 April," the tribal mediator said.
"It's a matter of time, we almost agreed on everything to have the Saudi and Swiss hostages released," said the tribal mediator.
The kidnappers want a ransom for the Swiss woman and a ransom and other things for the Saudi diplomat.
For the Saudi diplomat, the kidnappers want nine women to be released from Saudi prisons and they want tribal leaders from Yemen and Saudi Arabia to guarantee their release. And they want money also.
"We are now negotiating only about the money they want as a ransom. The amount they want is still very high, but there is initial agreement to make the amount reasonable, as they told me," the tribal mediator said. The mediator refused to say how much Al-Qaeda want as ransom for each hostage, but hinted at millions of dollars. There have been no negotiations yet about the French hostage, said the tribal leader from Shabwah.
The Saudi diplomat was kidnapped from the southern coastal city of Aden late last March, and the French Red Cross worker was kidnapped earlier this week from the western province of Hodeidah. And last week, Al-Qaeda kidnapped a high ranking army officer from Al-Baidha province in the southeast of the country.
The tribal mediator expected Al-Qaeda to release the Saudi diplomat and the Swiss woman teacher on Tuesday after having all their conditions met, but six terrorists were killed including three leaders by a US drone attack in the same province of Shabwah shortly before or after he was talking to the Weekly on Monday.
Ali Said bin Sumal, and Ibn Al-Ahwal were among the six terrorists killed when a US drone bombed a car moving in Wadi Abdan in Shabwah province on Monday.
This incident may delay the release of the Saudi and Swiss hostages who are being held in the same province of Shabwah. On Sunday, the financial and logistic official of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Mohamed Said Al-Omdah, was killed with two others by a US drone attack in the desert province of Mareb. Al-Omdah (nicknamed Abu Ghareeb Al-Taizi) is ranked fourth in the list of the most wanted Yemeni terrorists by the US.
Just one day after the killing of Al-Omdah in Mareb and six others in Shabwah, the FBI director Robert Muller met the Yemeni President Hadi and other intelligence officials to discuss the results of two fruitful drone attacks and further cooperation in future.
Motorcycles seem to be the main weapon in the hands of Al-Qaeda in Yemen to retaliate against drone attacks. On Tuesday, the director of intelligence in the southern province of Lahj, Abdel-Qader Al-Shami, was seriously injured with his son and his driver when two Al-Qaeda operatives riding a motorcycle bombed his armored car which was completely burnt in Aitha area on the highway between Aden and Lahj.
One of the attackers was injured and arrested by the bodyguards of Al-Shami, according to one of the bodyguards.
Earlier this week, a top leader of Al-Qaeda said Al-Qaeda would continue fighting until the "rule of God" is established.
Fahd Al-Qusu said the new President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi is a doll and his troops are still killing Mujahideen.
"So, we will not stop Jihad, until Islamic Sharia becomes the rule," said Al-Qusu in a press interview. Al-Qusu, who is wanted by the CIA for involvement in the USS Cole bombing in 2000 in Aden harbour, said that the tribesmen who are fighting them now in Lawdar are only "mercenaries".
"It is the mercenaries of the Lawdar committees who started the war against our Mujahideen," Said Al-Qusu in an obvious reference to the anti-Al-Qaeda popular committees in Lawdar, where fierce battles have been going on for about one month now.
The Al-Qaeda senior leader denied reports about hundreds of Al-Qaeda fighters being killed during the ongoing war in Lawdar over the few last weeks. "Only 11 Mujahideen won martyrdom, some of them are from Lawdar," he said.