By Associated Press, Updated: Monday, October 15, 5:17 PM
SANAA, Yemen — A Yemeni jet fighter crashed immediately after takeoff during a training mission on Monday, killing its pilot, Yemen’s Defense Ministry said.
The ministry’s online newspaper said the Russian-made MiG-21 aircraft crashed inside al-Annad air base in the southern province of Lahj due to technical failure.
It said the jet’s pilot, Col. Atiq al-Akhali, was killed and a trainee was injured.
Ansar al-Shariah, a group affiliated to al-Qaida in Yemen, had named al-Akhali and 11 other pilots in a hit list, promising to pay anyone who killed them a reward of around $5,000. The list, which was circulated on militant websites in June 2011, came as the Yemeni Air Force was carrying out aerial strikes against al-Qaida militants in the south. The group had seized control of large swaths of territory in southern Yemen during last year’s turmoil against the country’s longtime authoritarian leader. The military took back control earlier this year.
Al-Annad in Lahj is the biggest air base in the country. It hosts a group of U.S. military advisers helping Yemeni troops fighting the local branch of al-Qaida, considered by the U.S. to be the terror network’s most dangerous offshoot.
Meanwhile, a Yemeni court sentenced six al-Qaida militants to up to five years in prison over planning attacks and targeting security forces, foreign interests and state institutions. Heavy security forces were deployed to the court building in Sanaa.
A total number of 12 defendants were tried on charges of “forming armed groups to carry out criminal acts” and “planning attacks on military and government buildings and private and public property, including foreigners and the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions in Yemen,” between 2009 and 2011.
Six were acquitted while six others received sentences varying between one to five years in prison.
The trial comes at a time Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has ordered trials for tens of al-Qaida suspects, who are among hundreds of suspected extremist militants that have been held without charges for over a year.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or
Source: The Washington Post
Impoverished Yemen will ask “Friends of Yemen” in Riyadh for urgent multi-billion-dollar aid for its economic recovery.
Yemen will ask donors for about $10 billion in urgent aid at a "Friends of Yemen" meeting to be held in the Saudi capital later this month, the country's planning minister said on Wednesday.
"We are talking about $10 billion that we will need for economic recovery, to stabilise the economy and the currency," Mohammed Said al-Saadi said on the sidelines of a donors conference in Sanaa.
"This is just an estimate at this point," he said adding that "these figures will be discussed" even though the meeting of foreign ministers from the Gulf countries, and representatives of the United States, the European Union and the United Nations in Riyadh on May 23 will focus mainly on political aspects of Yemen's transition.
The interim transitional government is in the process of finalising an emergency plan to relaunch its shattered economy, still reeling from a year-long uprising that forced veteran leader Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power.
According to the minister, the plan sets out the most "urgent priorities," including a spiralling food crisis that the United Nations estimates has affected some 10 million Yemenis.
The plan will also focus on rebuilding infrastructure, specifically electricity, water and oil products, and ensure that severely debilitated health and social services are restored, he added.
But Western diplomats at Wednesday's meeting said they were unlikely to make any financial commitments until a formal donor conference, known as the Consultative Group Meeting, to be held in early July.
According to one European diplomat, the $10 billion dollar request is also "not realistic."
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the diplomat said the problem was not that donors were unwilling to lend their support, but rather they fear Yemen's new government is ill-equipped to allocate the funds efficiently.
"The problem is the capacity of the ministries to spend the money," the diplomat said adding that donor nations are now working with the Yemeni government to "increase" that capacity.
Philippe Jacques, counsellor at the European Union's Development Cooperation in Sanaa agreed, saying the issue was not money, but rather preparedness.
"The projects are not ready," said Jacques. "You can't just have a shopping list, you also have to be prepared" to implement them.
He said a proposal for a strategic partnership with the donors put forth by the Yemenis at Wednesday's meeting was a positive step because it put the burden on the government to coordinate the donors.
"Will they be able to do it? That's the big question," he said.
Donor representatives and Yemeni officials cautioned that high expectations among Yemenis, coupled with the government's limited resources and security difficulties that are hindering access to those most in need remain a serious source of concern.
"The expectations for change are so high they cannot be fulfilled," said the diplomat who asked to remain anonymous adding that despite the dire political and economic conditions in the country, "there is still a large gap" in aid funding.
Source: Middle East
Yemen says it has killed 12 Al Qaeda-linked militants in the country’s restive southern region, while insurgents reported killing seven troops in the same battle.
The news comes a day after insurgents from the same rebel group in the town of Jaar freed 73 soldiers
captured in fighting in southern Yemen following mediation by religious scholars and tribal elders, and two days after three suspected militants were killed in an air strike while driving in the northern province of Al-Jawf,the Agence France Presse reports
.According to Reuters
, soldiers backed by tribal fighters killed eight militants Monday outside the town of Lawdar, where clashes have been a frequent occurrence in recent weeks. An air force plane bombed a nearby vehicle, killing four militants inside.
A local government official said one solider and a tribal fighter died in the fighting, a casualty count that did not tally with that reported by the Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) group, which said in a statement that its fighters had killed seven soldiers and wounded 27 tribesman.More from GlobalPost: Al Qaeda in Yemen releases 73 soldiers
Militants linked to Al Qaeda’s Yemeni franchise (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP) have exploited a security vacuum in Yemen’s southern and eastern regions following months of protests against ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The fighters intensified their attacks on the security forces after President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi took office in February and vowed to hunt down the militants.
On Monday the UN’s envoy to Yemen, Jamal bin Omar, met with Saleh to press him to stop meddling in the country’s affairs, the Associated Press reports
Saleh has been accused of obstructing the new president’s efforts to purge loyalists to the old regime from security agencies. Monday’s meeting came after Saleh’s son – who commands the powerful Special Forces and Republican Guard – defied Hadi’s orders and appointed a relative to a new security unit.
In a separate development Monday, AQAP confirmed the death of top militant commander Mohammed Al-Umda in an airstrike a week ago in a remote desert region of southern Yemen.
US officials said the airstrike was carried out by a CIA drone, according to ABC News
Source: Global Post
A French official of the International Committee of the Red Cross was kidnapped Saturday in western Yemen, an ICRC spokeswoman said.
The ICRC official, whose identity was not disclosed, was taken about 30 kilometers (19 miles) outside of Hudaida, a coastal city on the Red Sea, said Dibeh Fakhr. He was traveling with two Yemeni drivers, who were also taken but then released, she said. They were unharmed.
"Until now, we have no contact with the kidnappers or our employee," Fakhr told CNN.
The spokeswoman declined to identify the official because of concerns for his safety. For the same reason, she said she would not comment on the possible identity of the kidnappers.
Kidnappings are common in Yemen, which has been beset by political turbulence since the beginning of last year. Protests led to the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh from office, and the government has battled Islamic militants.
Last month, Saudi Arabia's deputy consul was kidnapped in Yemen's southern port city of Aden, two security officials there told CNN.
Last week's shutdown of Sanaa's airport by security forces seeking to reverse President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi's dismissal of top brass loyal to the ancien regime
exemplified exactly where Yemen is stuck.
After three decades under former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, elements within the transitional civilian government are eager to move forward, with ambitious plans to reform the country's legal and security infrastructure. But they lack the muscle to rein in the security forces, implicated in many of the worst human rights abuses during last year's uprising yet still operating their fiefdoms. Restoring law and order requires a major restructuring of those security forces and a strong dose of accountability for the killings of hundreds of peaceful protesters and indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas.
The blighted record of Yemen's security forces is well documented. The Central Security Forces, headed by Saleh's nephew, Yahya Saleh, stood by while armed pro-government thugs attacked and killed 45 demonstrators on March 18, 2011. The Republican Guards, headed by Saleh's son, Ahmed Ali Saleh, indiscriminately shelled residential neighborhoods in Taiz last year, killing dozens of civilians. There is little contention that these security forces participated in or failed to prevent several similar attacks. Yet when I visited Yemen in late March, the country's general prosecutor could not confirm that a single senior officer in either of these forces had been questioned, much less prosecuted.
In the name of "moving forward," the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the United States worked out a deal offering Saleh a blanket amnesty and all his aides immunity from prosecution for "political crimes" in exchange for Saleh's agreement to leave office – immunity that Yemen's Parliament enshrined in law this year. The GCC deal included a provision for a draft Transitional Justice Law that would establish a truth commission, leaving open the hope that Yemenis will at least be able to establish a record of the gross abuses carried out by political and military leaders and compensate people who suffered at their hands. But the current draft doesn't give the commission subpoena powers, so even this small remedial measure will prove limited.
Sanaa, Yemen's capital, remains a city divided, with neighborhoods under the control of various warlords, and none under President Hadi's control. The Republican Guard refuses to fully remove its troops and checkpoints because, its commanders argue, the renegade First Armored Division and militias of the powerful al-Ahmar family won't pull theirs back.
While Hadi and Interior Minister Qader Qahtan have made clear their plans to bring the security services under civilian control and remove officials implicated in abuses, it's also clear they are currently powerless to do so. Yahya Saleh's appearance at my meeting with Qahtan was a surprise, and effectively preempted any discussion of the interior minister's relationship with Central Security.
Despite this standoff, the U.S. government has pledged to resume counterterrorism assistance to fight Yemen's thriving al Qaeda branch, most likely to some of these same military units, to the tune of $75 million this year. If the United States is serious about supporting democratic transition and the rule of law in Yemen, it needs to enforce counterterrorism czar John Brennan's promise that no aid will go to units involved in "political shenanigans" such as the airport shutdown. The United States should start with rigorous Leahy Law-style vetting of all security units being considered for funding. It also should help ensure that those units are accountable to Yemen's civilian government, and that the government conducts serious investigations into their abuses.
The international community should also lend technical and financial support to the legal affairs ministry, which has set itself the ambitious task of rewriting the country's major laws to make them comply with international human rights standards, including laws on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), labor rights, political parties, and the media.
Minister Ahmed al-Mikhlafi, a former human rights activist, recognizes that this is an opportunity to lay a legal foundation that will protect rights for generations to come. Mikhlafi's offices, unlike the plush, expansive offices of the National Security Agency and Republican Guard, are in a small, dilapidated building. He works with a skeletal staff, sometimes without electricity – as we discovered during our meeting in the dark. The United States also can support the new human rights minister, Huriyeh Mashour, who has boldly challenged security force abuses, but bemoaned the lack of skills, training, and funding for her underpaid staff.
The United States, the European Union, and the Gulf states were key to persuading Saleh to leave office. Now, they should make an equally concerted effort to help Yemen's new government build rights-respecting security institutions and establish the rule of law. Without these elements, al Qaeda is likely to flourish and rival security factions won't accept civilian rule. Donor countries need to ensure that their assistance moves Yemen forward, and doesn't reward elements holding it back.
Source: Human Rights Watch
SANA'A, 20 April 2012 (IRIN) - Authorities in Yemen are yet to resolve the “marginalization” of the minority Akhdam people, weeks after thousands protested in the capital Sana’a over low pay and lack of work contracts, say community members.
“The Akhdam are not simply second class citizens,” a protester said from his tent in Change Square. “They are more like fifth or sixth class citizens; the lowest class in the whole republic.”
Despite speaking Arabic and practising Islam in the country for over 1,000 years, the Akhdam, who prefer to be called Al Muhamasheen, or “marginalized ones”, have never felt a part of the majority.
The most visible marker of the Akhdam’s status in Yemeni society is the menial occupations they perform. Men roam the streets on 10-hour shifts sweeping and collecting rubbish, while women and children collect up cans and bottles and beg for handouts.
Popular myth traces their arrival in Yemen to the 5th or 6th century, when the group’s Ethiopian ancestors crossed the Red Sea in a failed bid to conquer the southern corner of the Arabian peninsula.
After the arrival of Islam, so the myth goes, Muslim rulers defeated the Ethiopian army and sent them into exile. The ones who stayed were enslaved and relegated to the fringes of society, where they have remained despite the replacement in 1962 of a caste-like Imamate with the egalitarian promises of a modern state. They are thought to number around one million, mostly concentrated in urban slums in Taiz and Sana’a.
The prospect of democratic reforms envisaged in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plan which pulled Yemen from the brink of civil war in 2012 raised hopes that the situation would improve for the Akhdam people, but little has happened yet. Protests
In early April 2012, for the second time in as many months, some 4,000 street sweepers in the capital went on strike in protest over unfulfilled promises by the government to raise their pay and extend their daily contracts. After only a few days off the job, Sana’a’s streets became like an urban landfill site, forcing interim Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa to negotiate with the disenfranchized group.
Nabil, a 30-year-old street sweeper living in Mukhayyim Aser, an Akhdam slum near the presidential palace, told IRIN a day after the prime minister promised permanent contracts to the temporary workers, “Basindawa has not changed anything…
“My friend has been working as a street sweeper for 35 years and still does not have a job contract,” he added. “That’s why we’re on strike.”
One prominent Akhdam is Nabil Al Maktari, president of the Yemeni Organization Against Slavery and Discrimination. He spent 2011 protesting alongside thousands of other Yemenis - students, professors, soldiers and political activists - demanding the overthrow of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government.
According to Maktari, however, the new government has ceded some ground to the street sweepers. At the end of 2011, the prime minister’s office gave 50,000 riyals (US$235) to local Akhdam chiefs who represent the cleaners and provide them with protection. “But the workers never saw that money,” he said.
Even Saleh yielded to the workers’ demands, Maktari said, increasing their daily pay to 800 riyals ($3.75) at the onset of the Yemeni Spring in 2011. But despite the government’s concessions, Maktari said, “the street sweepers still have no holidays, not even during Eid. And if a tribal person kills a Khadem [member of the Akhdam community; which happened several times during the Yemeni protests] there is no way for his family to seek justice. Even though they’re Yemeni citizens, no laws exist for these crimes.”
Many Akhdam view the stop-gap measures by Saleh and Basindawa with suspicion. An elder in the Al Hasaba slum, in a pocket of Sana’a which saw some of the heaviest fighting during last year’s revolts, said officials from Saleh’s regime paid him and his neighbours to carry pro-Saleh signs at the beginning of the uprisings. “They don’t help us until they need help,” he said.
Government officials say there is “no discrimination” against the Akhdam and that they are like every other Yemeni before the law; and they point to the construction of public housing for the Akhdam in Sana’a’s Sawan area as proof.
Mohammed Al Eryani, assistant deputy mayor of Sana’a, told IRIN the Akhdam are perhaps the only employees of the central government who do not have benefits like permanent contracts and pensions.
While admitting the Akhdam are targets of some of the worst racism in the country, Eryani said the reason they have never been awarded contracts or other benefits is because they are unreliable. “One day a Khadem may wake up to find that his car won’t start, so he will spend the day fixing it instead of going into work.”
Asked whether the plight of the Akhdam would improve under the new government, a young street sweeper named Khaled in Mukhayyim Aser said: “So far, we haven’t seen any changes. Things have been almost the same as before the revolution got started. So to answer your question, no.”
A woman standing next to him said, “maybe”.
If the last time you glanced at the news from Yemen there was talk of a youth-led revolution, then you could be forgiven for being confused.
Talk of overthrowing a president has now been replaced with talk of "power sharing".
The streets of Sanaa have been largely cleared of the countless checkpoints from late last year. Back then, guns were everywhere - government troops, renegade troops, pro-Saleh tribesmen, and what seemed like just about anyone with an AK47, lounged in street doorways or on the back of pick-up trucks.
There are much less of them now, but some are still here. Un-uniformed men with automatic rifles loiter, betraying the truth of a peace deal that still hangs in the balance.
In an unapologetically tribal country, which boasts over three guns per person, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has been able to display some the best political manoeuvring in his 33 years of ruling the country - as the country threatened to tip into civil war last winter.
Of course, he was eventually forced to sign the GCC-brokered deal in November to hand over power to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, but managed to remain a huge force in Yemen's politics.
That is what many see as causing the current crisis. Top positions in the military have been controlled by Saleh family members for years. Part of the GCC deal was that they would be phased out. But so far, they refuse to go.City under siege
President Hadi fired Saleh's half brother - Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, the head of the air force - on April 6. The day after the announcement, Ahmar's troops surrounded the capital city Sanaa's airport and force it shut for a day.
On Sunday, local reports claimed Hadi had given Ahmar 48 hours to hand over power gracefully or he would be arrested. He still resisted. Many in Sanaa held their breath, predicting a showdown.
The UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, who brokered the GCC deal in November, arrived on Wednesday and immediately rushed to meet all parties.
All parties these days still includes Saleh. Seven weeks after he handed over power, he still seems in a position to negotiate.
Officially, claim his loyalists, that is because he remains head of the General People's Congress Party. Unofficially, many believe it is because he is pressuring his family members to hold their nerve, and refuse to step aside from their military positions.
He may have stepped down as president, but with his family still holding the reigns in much of the country's enormous military, Saleh's involvement in Yemen's politics is far from over.
Source: Al Ajazeera
Three soldiers and a civilian were killed on Tuesday in a suicide bombing launched by al-Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen's southern Abyan province, a website run by the Defence Ministry reported on Tuesday, dpa
The report said that the suicide attack targeted a military post near the town of Laudar, which has been the site of battles since militants with the Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) organization tried to seize it a week ago.
Yemeni government forces and allied tribal fighters killed seven militants in the area on Monday, the September 26 website reported.
Meanwhile, a stand-off over an air base between the country's dismissed air force chief and soldiers loyal to President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi continued, independent news website al-Masdar Online reported.
Mohamed Saleh al-Ahmar and his men are refusing to allow the army access to the base, outside the capital Sana'a.
Al-Ahmar, the half-brother of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, was one of several top officers dismissed by Hadi this month, enabling the president to take full control of Yemen's divided military.
In the southern city of Taiz, another air force base was overrun Monday by members of the Republican Guard, which is commanded by Saleh's son Ahmed, according to al-Masdar Online.
Yemen faces military challenges from al-Qaeda-linked militants in the south and a rebellious Shiite movement in the north.
Its armed forces have been paralysed by a year of political discord in which some commanders lined up with former president Saleh, while others sided with the opposition.
Members of Saleh's family were appointed to senior military positions during his 34-year rule.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Saudi Arabia claimed Tuesday that al-Qaida has taken responsibility for the kidnapping of a Saudi diplomat in Yemen last month and is demanding release of prisoners and a ransom payment.
Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said a Saudi citizen who is on the kingdom's most-wanted list of terror suspects relayed the demands by telephone to the Saudi embassy in Yemen, adding a threat to kill the captive.
Diplomat Abdullah al-Khaldi, the deputy consul at the Saudi consulate in Aden, was abducted in the Yemeni port city of Aden on March 28.
Abductions are frequent in Yemen, where armed tribesmen and militants take hostages to swap for prisoners or cash. The kidnappings are usually resolved peacefully.
Al-Turki said a Saudi terror suspect, Mashaal Rasheed al-Shawdakhi, has been in contact with the Saudi embassy in Sanaa for a number of times.
The Saudi official held the kidnappers responsible for the safety of the diplomat, urging them to release him.
This is the second incident of kidnapping of a Saudi diplomat in Yemen. Last year, tribesmen released a Saudi diplomat after 10 days over a financial dispute between a Saudi businessmen and the tribe.
Saudi Arabia and the rest of Gulf Cooperation Council countries have been heavily involved in a power transfer deal that forced Yemen's longtime president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to relinquish power after a year of mass protests against his rule. Saleh stepped down in February and handed power to his deputy.
Yemen's political turmoil has caused a security vacuum in the country, which al-Qaida has used to seize large swaths of territory in the south. In recent weeks, fighting between the militants and Yemen's military has intensified.
According to a transcript provided by the Saudi Interior Ministry, al-Shawdakhi asked first to meet with Saudi diplomats but then agreed to relay the demands over the phone.
The Islamic militant group is demanding release of top al-Qaida prisoners, both Saudi and Yemeni, currently in Saudi jails, as well as half a dozen women prisoners held there, in return for the diplomat, he said, adding that the leader of al-Qaida in Yemen, Nasser al-Wahishi, appointed him to make the contacts.
Al-Shawdakhi identified the prisoners by name and said the group is also demanding a ransom payment. He did not say how much. He warned that the diplomat could be killed if the demands are not met.© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has given a dismissed air force commander two days to hand over command or face a court martial, independent news website al-Masdar Online reported yesterday, quoting military sources.
Mohamed Saleh al-Ahmar, the half-brother of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, was one of several top officers dismissed earlier this month as Hadi seeks to gain full control of Yemen’s divided military.
Al-Ahmar refused to comply with the decision, and his loyalists seized control of Sanaa International Airport, closing traffic. Though the airport was reopened one day later, al-Ahmar refused to hand over command.
Yemen faces military challenges from Al Qaeda-linked militants in the south and a rebellious Shia movement in the north.
But its armed forces have been all but paralysed by a year of political discord in which different commanders lined up with former president Saleh or the opposition.
Members of Saleh’s family were appointed to many senior military positions during his 34-year rule.
Hadi’s ultimatum met with support from eight local air force commanders, according to independent news website Mareb Press.
Hadi also has the strong backing of Gulf and Western states who signed off on the Gulf peace plan under which Saleh stepped down.
“The US and the European Union have voiced their full readiness to impose sanctions against anyone attempting to hinder the Gulf deal,” said a military source quoted by al-Masdar Online, adding that “it is a last message to the former president and his relatives who endeavour to rebel against the legitimacy of the president elect.”
Source: Gulf Times