Written By: Nasser Arrabyee
Article Date: Jul 9, 2011 - 2:06:58 PM
Yemenis are facing at least three battles at the same time. A battle to end the six-month long political crisis, an economic battle, and an extensive military battle with al-Qaeda which has exploited the unrest across the country.
Al-Qaeda has become the biggest beneficiary of the current conflict after resident Ali Abdullah Saleh left Yemen for Saudi Arabia for treatment of injuries sustained in an attack on his Palace’s mosque on June 3rd.
With their new name, Shariah Partisans, al-Qaeda has vowed to control the south of Yemen after it declared at least two southern provinces Taliban-style Islamic Emirates. The province of Abyan and its capital Zinjubar, where fierce battles recommenced on Tuesday July 5th, is less than 50 km from Aden.
In an exclusive interview with the Ahram weekly, a tribal leader from the south who is close to al-Qaeda leaders, said that the group is now more determined than ever to enter Aden in order to control the southern Yemen’s most strategic harbor on the Arabian Sea, where more three billion barrels of oil pass every day.
According military officials, forty al-Qaeda fighters were killed on Tuesday July 5th in battles with government troops when they tried to end a one-month long blockade at a military camp at the outskirts of Zinjubar. In another battle about thirty soldiers were killed and many more injured when they also tried to retake a stadium that was previously seized by al-Qaeda. The Stadium, May 22, is only thirty kilometers from Aden on the highway between Aden and Abyan.
The tribal leader, Ali Abdul Salam, also known as Mulla Zabara, said Al Qaeda leaders told him last Sunday that “they are determined to enter Aden very soon” and that they would not accept mediation from now on.
Mulla Zabara, who had been mediating between al-Qaeda and the Government, failed for the second time in two days to remove dozens of bodies and injured soldiers who were victims of the July 5 battle. With the attack, Al Qaeda tried to tighten the blockade on the 25 Mica military camp and to get closer to Aden.
Zabara is from Shabwah province, which has also been declared as a Taliban-style Islamic Emirate in parts, is a relative of one of the al-Qaeda leaders that is now ruling Abyan. The army shelled the al-Qaeda leaders who were supposed to meet Mulla Zabara on Sunday as they disappeared into trees at the outskirt of Zinjubar. Two days earlier, airplanes bombed al-Qaeda sites and thwarted Mulla Zabara’s efforts to reach the Stadium to retrieve the dead and injured soldiers.
“After this second treacherous attack, al-Qaeda leader Fahd Al Qusu, called me saying (Do not mediate any more, do not believe them, they just want to kill us through you),” said Zabara.
Zabara also said that al-Qaeda told him they would not allow any mediators to come to take dead bodies or injured. “They already buried about 25 dead bodies,” said Mulla Zabara. For humanitarian reasons, Zabara said he would continue the mediations with al-Qaeda, but under his own conditions.
“I would tell those who ask me to mediate like the minister of defense, to bring their sons or brothers with me next time,” he said.
When asked why al-Qaeda trusts him and why it would trust him in the future, he said, “Al-Qaeda people know me very well, they know I am not paid by the government, they know I want to do the good for the sake of God not for the money or any other thing,” He said.
“I do not hate al-Qaeda. Why should I?” said Zabara, who called himself Mulla as a sign of admiration for the al-Qaeda leader Mulla Omar.
In a previous meeting with al-Qaeda early last month, Mulla Zabara said he met important leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular like Qasem Al Raimi, and Saeed Al Shihri, the Saudi leader in Zinjubar. “I think every one is there now,” he said.
Al Qaeda said they are ready to release those blockaded into the 25 Mica military camp, but not their weapons or equipment. The camp was sieged late in May after Al Qaeda attacked Zinjubar.
Airstrikes and military operations around the camp and reinforcements sent to the area have forced more than 50,000 people to flee to the neighboring provinces of Aden and Lahj.
“We will keep imposing the siege on them until they surrender or die,” Mulla Zabara quoted his cousin Fahd al-Qusu as saying. Al-Qusu is one of the CIA’s most wanted al-Qaeda leaders. “We are determined to enter Aden sooner or later.”
Acting President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi confirmed this week that President Ali Abdullah Saleh would stay President until a new leader is elected.
In a televised interview he said he had been empowered to talk with all parties and sign any document that led to the implementation of the US-backed and Saudi-led GCC deal. He is accepted by all opposition parties as well as the defected General Ali Muhsen and tribal leaders.
The commander of the Republican Guards and son of President Saleh, Ahmed Ali, declared last week he would do his best to support Mr. Hadi to end the crisis. Ahmed’s public declaration was his first since the political crisis erupted earlier this year.
The opposition, however, wants power to be transferred to Hadi now.
In pressuring for the transfer of power to Hadi the Opposition is not united. They have inspired young people in the streets to demand a transitional council although they know, nobody would recognize such a council. This week, the opposition coalition met to discuss the possibility of forming a transitional council to appease the young people in the streets.
“Yemeni now ha(s) only two options: either to reconcile or to go to destroying war,” said Dr Abdul Malik Al Mutawkil, a member of the high council of the opposition coalition which includes Islamists, Socialists, and Nasserites (Arab nationalists).
“All Yemenis should be represented in the new State to be established,” said Al Mutawakil, who is also Secretary General of the Popular Forces Federation, a small Shiite party in the opposition coalition which is otherwise dominated by the Islah Yemeni Party, a Suni islamist party and a branch of the Islanmic brotherhood.
The Assistant Secretary General of the Socialist party, Yahya Abu Asbu, criticized the Americans, Europeans and Saudi Arabia describing them as “enemies of revolutions”.
“The US, EU, and Saudi Arabia threatened not to recognize the transitional council, but I’m wondering when the great revolutions took permits from their enemies,” Abu Asbu told hundreds protesters in the main square at the gate of Sana’a university.
The spokesman for the ruling party, Tarik Al Shami said, “Any talk about transitional council is a provocative act, and desperate and failed attempt to overthrow the constitutional legitimacy.”
The Government is also battling saboteurs and tribal rebels who exploited the unrest by bombing an oil pipelines and electrical pylons - making daily life for people in Yemen even worse.
On Tuesday July 5th, the Ministry of Interior published the names and photos of 59 tribesmen loyal to the Islamist party from Arhab district who are wanted for blocking roads and attacking checkpoints and military camps. The Ministry has offered USD15,000 for any information leading to their arrest.
In the same week, the Ministry also published the names and photos of another 53 tribesmen from Marib province loyal to the Islamist party who are wanted for bombing the main oil pipeline last March, which caused oil production to cease completely.
Earlier this week, the Yemeni army said in a statement, that it is confronting al-Qaeda in Abyan as well as their sympathizers. The al-Qaeda sympathizers are located in Arhab, 40km north of the capital Sana’a, in al-Haima, about 60 km west of the capital and in Taiz about 260 km south of the capital. The statement identified three tribal leaders who are also leaders of the army of the Islah Party in these cities. They were Mansour Al Hanik in Arhab, Rabish Wahban in Al Haima, and Hamoud Saeed Al Mekhlafi in Sharab, Taiz.
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