Issue No.1131, 17 January, 2013      16-01-2013 03:34PM ET

End of assassinations in Yemen?

A raid on a terrorist cell gives Yemen hope, reports Nasser Arrabyee

End of assassinations in Yemen?
Supporters of Yemen’s separatist Southern Movement attend a rally of “reconciliation and tolerance” to call for the secession of the south and to mark the anniversary of a civil war that erupted in 1986 (photo: Reuters)
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Not far from the capital Sanaa, in a small house rented by an alleged security man, Al-Qaeda was implementing assassinations against military and security officials, through a cell that was arrested early Monday, after a total of 66 military and security officials were assassinated during 2012.

Two Al-Qaeda operatives were arrested in that house which was like a small factory for explosives and weapons that were supposed to be used in new assassinations, said security sources Monday. Counter-terrorism forces raided the Al-Qaeda hideout in Jader, 14km north of the Yemeni capital. Authorities confiscated improvised explosive devises, electronic circuits, suicide vests, wires, batteries, antennas, cell phones, magnetic plates, mortar shells and bomb making equipment.

In addition, security forces detained two operatives who were present at the scene and identified other members of the terror cell during the raid. It was also discovered that the hideout had assassination guide books, target lists and paper clippings of articles tracking the series of assassinations that killed Yemeni officers.

One of the cell members impersonated a police officer to rent the house four months ago. The cell also used motorbikes for transportation. It is worth noting that assassins riding motorbikes have killed 40 officers and injured dozens in Yemen during 2012.

On the same day, a primary court specialised for terror trials was listening to the list of charges against 10 Al-Qaeda suspects who were involved in a terrorist operation that resulted in killing and injuring about 300 soldiers in a parade last May.

The prosecutor Rajeh Zaid accused the 10 men of being Al-Qaeda members and of participating in planning and implementation of the so-called massacre of Al-Sabeen in which 86 soldiers were killed and 171 were injured after a suicide bomber from the same group blew himself up in the middle of the parade on 21 May 2012.

The defendants denied the charges, and when judge Hilal Mahfal asked them about what they already said in the minutes of investigations, they said they were forced to say all. One of them, Hisham Sadek Al-Sharabi, 24, told the judge that “a political game” was behind everything.

But he could not explain how, or what he means by that after the judge asked him to elaborate. The majority of the defendants are from the same neighbourhood where the suicide bomber Haitham Mufareh was living, the residential city east of the capital. The father of Haitham is senior military official in the Yemeni defence forces.

The security measures were exceptionally tight around the building of the court in fear of any terrorist operation to kidnap the defendants while being transferred from and to their prison. The court was supposed to start the first session on Saturday, but the intelligence agency refused to hand over the defendants before taking some specific security measures.

Earlier in the week, the tribal leader, Sheikh Ali Abdel-Salam, nicknamed Mulla Zabar, was killed and one of his bodyguards injured in Thaykah area of the mountainous district of Al-Mahfad, one of the most important strongholds of Al-Qaeda in the south.

Zabar, previously with links to Al-Qaeda, was on his way from Aden to the Shabwah when three gunmen riding a pick-up car met him in Thaykah area where they talked with him for sometime before they shot him dead, said his brother Abu Bakr Abdel-Salam. One of his bodyguards, called Mohamed Saleh Al-Shaibi, was injured in the operation. The remains of Zabar was buried in his village in Rafadh of Shabwah on Saturday.

Zabar mediated between Al-Qaeda and the government many times. He was the main mediator between Al-Qaeda and French organisations when Al-Qaeda released three French hostages in 2011 in return for ransom. The brother Abu Bakr did not accuse any one, but he said there must be investigations.

However, Zabar said one week ago that his life was in danger and he wanted to seek political asylum in a European country. “My life is in danger now here in Shabwah, I want to seek asylum in one of the European countries,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly, over the phone from Shabwah one week  before he was killed. Mulla Zabar is from Al-Awlaki tribes of Shabwah province, the same tribe of Anwar Al-Awlaki, and Fahd Al-Qusu who both were killed by US drone attacks in 2011.

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