Al-Ahram Weekly Online   2 - 8 August 2012
Issue No. 1109
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Violence on the rise in Sanaa

As security declines in the capital, Al-Qaeda is reasserting its presence in Yemen's rural areas, writes Nasser Arrabyee

The political and security situation in Yemen is still fragile. The capital Sanaa witnessed several incidents this week.

At least five soldiers were killed and 30 others injured on Tuesday, 31 July, at the gate of the Interior Ministry in clashes between security forces and employees from the ministry demanding rights.

The problem started Sunday when the employees, from the police, stormed the ministry building after their superiors refused their demands. The angry employees were convinced to evacuate the building after officials -- including the minister of interior -- promised to respond to their grievances.

On Sunday, 29 July, an Italian diplomat was kidnapped from a street in the capital Sanaa. The kidnapper was later identified by the ministry of interior as Ali Nasser Harikdan, a tribal leader from Abeidah in Mareb, where Al-Qaeda is active. The kidnapper is demanding compensation from the government for putting him in prison.

On Saturday, Al-Qaeda failed to assassinate a tribal leader in Sanaa, but succeeded in killing his son by parcel bomb. A tribal sheikh of Kaifah of Radaa, Al-Baidha province, Majed Al-Dhahab received a call immediately after his son's killing, saying, "We will kill anyone who would stand against Al-Qaeda."

Two armed men reportedly came to Al-Dhahab's street, located in Aser area west of the capital Sanaa, where they found his son, Ali, playing with friends. The two men, believed to be Al-Qaeda operatives, handed Ali a wrapped parcel and told him it was a gift for his father.

A bomb was inside the parcel. Ali took it and entered his house to hand it to his father, but he did not find him. Ali opened the parcel and it exploded, killing him immediately.

"Al-Qaeda killed my son, Al-Qaeda killed my son," Sheikh Majed said after he heard the news. Majed is a cousin of Tarek Al-Dhahab, Al-Qaeda leader in Radaa who was killed in February this year in clashes with tribal leaders who refuse Al-Qaeda and its ideology.

Sheikh Majed Al-Dhahab was one of the prominent tribal leaders who led a campaign against Al-Qaeda in February, forcing them out of Radaa. Sheikh Hazem Al-Dhahab, brother of Tarek, was also killed in the clashes, after he killed his brother Tarek.

About 40 people were killed in the clashes including six brothers and nephews from Tarek Al-Dhahab's family in February.

It's worth mentioning that the Sheikh Majed Al-Dhahab assassination attempt came days after a cell of five members of Al-Qaeda was arrested in Sanaa.

AL-QAEDA RETURNS: Al-Qaeda has returned to the main strongholds in the south of Yemen after local tribesmen stopped fighting them.

The government failed to pay all the tribesmen, known as anti-Al-Qaeda popular committees, to prevent the terrorists from returning to Jaar, and Zinjubar in the southern province of Abyan.

The popular committees played a key role in driving Al-Qaeda out of the two towns last May, in cooperation with government troops.

Thousands of unemployed young people from the local tribes who joined the committees wanted to have regular salaries from the army as rewards for their fighting against Al-Qaeda.

"We should have salaries like the soldiers; we did better than them in the fight against Al-Qaeda," said Yaslem Awadh, one of the prominent leaders of the popular committees in Zinjubar.

The government cannot afford to pay all these people and at the same time cannot work without them. They know how to deal with Al-Qaeda more than government security and the army.

Earlier this week, five people were killed and others injured in clashes between Al-Qaeda operatives and local tribesmen in Batis area on the outskirts of Jaar. Local sources said that more 50 Al-Qaeda fighters returned to Jaar earlier this month and are now based in Batis.

In Zinjubar, Al-Qaeda operatives are seen everyday. "We see them, but we cannot do anything to them," said Mohamed Obadi, a local resident in Zinjubar.

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