Written By: Shuaib M. Al Mosawa
Article Date: Jan 28, 2013 - 10:18:56 PM
A militant pledges allegiance to Tariq Al Thahab, the family leader who briefly controlled Rada'a in January 2012 before he was killed in a family dispute in the same month.
A tribal family harboring al-Qaeda militants east of the capital Sana’a is asking the government to halt US drone strikes in their area in order for them to deviate terrorism and evacuate foreign militants from their stronghold, said a tribal local source.
Al-Dhahab family, which briefly invaded Rada’a province backed by al Qaeda militants one year ago, are now in al-Manasih, a nearby area serving as the family stronghold that has seen a number of US drone strikes targeting suspected al-Qaeda militants.
Since President Abdu Rabu Mansoor Hadi took office in 2012, the US has escalated its drone campaign targeting suspected al-Qaeda militants, the Yemen based off shoot US considers the most active branch of the global network.
Hadi has publicly acknowledged his approval for US to strikes within the country, hailing the campaign as “having a zero margin of error”. Locals where the drones have struck said that a number of civilians have been killed, including women and children.
A number of al-Qaeda militants are said to have flocked to al-Baitha’a province, some 150 km southeast of the capital, Sana'a, when a 2012 government campaign against al-Qaeda in Abyan province dismantled their stronghold.
The government sent military reinforcements to Rada’a last week to force the militants out, said Ali Al Tairi, a tribal leader in Rada’a and one of the mediators between the government and the militants.
“The reason why the government sent reinforcement is al-Qaeda’s presence here,” Al Tairi said.
He said the reinforcement arrived to force foreigner jihadists from al-Manasih, the area al-Thahab family retreated to in January of last year.
“In reality, we feel we have a duty to do; we arrived at al-Manasih and met sons, Abdullah, Abdurraoof [of al-Thahab family]. We advised them sincerely to deviate from the [terrorist] actions and told them come back to being as they were before: among Yemen’s Sheikhs who comply with the state’s authority and respects its officials.”
He said that al-Thahab family, powerful tribal sheikhs of Rada’a before they became involved with al-Qaeda, needs to show good will by handing over the militants.
When al-Thahab took over Rada’a, they declared it an “Islamic caliphate”, a strict system of law al-Qaeda is advocating for and has effectively forced it in Abyan and Shabwa provinces.
“Following suit of al-Qaeda is unacceptable,” Al Tairi said, “as we are already Muslims who are in no need for anyone to teach us once again.”
The drone strikes have killed a number of militants in Al Baitha’a province, including in al-Manasih. Al Tairi said he warned al-Thahab family of the consequences if they continue to harbor the militants.
“I told them ‘You should protect your own interests’ and they probably heeded the advice.”
He said that part of the agreement he is negotiating with al-Thahab family to stay in their place and that the presence of foreign militants and those from other provinces are not accepted.
“They responded to our mediation as being sheikhs [and not state officials],” said al-Tairi.
He said they are willing to hand over all militants from either inside or outside Yemen provided that the drones stop and the reinforcements go back, a condition at which they reached a deadlock, he said.
“I told [al-Thahab family] that their demand of the reinforcement to return is unrealistic as it is the government’s right to be present everywhere,” said al-Tairi, adding that he informed the governor of al-Thahab family’s condition and that he was optimistic about the intent to hand over militants but said that reinforcements cannot leave.
“Until this moment” al-Tairi said, “we are still negotiating around this point.”
The number of the militants is not known, said al-Tairi, but according to estimation, he said, “some say 200, others say 500 but I am not sure.”
Al-Tairi has been three times to al-Manasih as a negotiator with the recent one on last Saturday.
“It seems that [al-Thahab] are willing hand over the militants even with the presence of the reinforcements.”
A version of this article appeared in today's issue of Yemen Observer on January 28, 2013, on front page
• Offensive against militants drives US drone campaign, tribes claim
• Family to hand over militants should drone campaign cease
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