Weekly News Update 21 February 2014

Bomb maker still at large after Yemen prison break is sign of al Qaida’s strength
McClatchy via Sacramento Bee — 20 February 2014
A week after suspected al Qaida militants blew a hole in the wall of Sanaa’s central prison, Shawish remains at large, one of 19 al Qaida suspects among the 29 prisoners who managed to escape during the mayhem. Only one has been recaptured, and none of the al Qaida members. Their crimes, according to a statement from the Yemeni Ministry of the Interior, ranged from attempting to assassinate the country’s current president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, to fighting with al Qaida-affiliated insurgents in southern Abyan province. Their sentences ranged from six years to death. Of the group, Shawish stands apart, say Yemeni officials, who call him the most dangerous of last week’s escapees and another example of why Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula continues to grow, despite concerted efforts by the government and a persistent U.S. drone campaign that strikes alleged militants on a regular basis. By his own admission, Shawish had a significant role in attacks on military checkpoints, army bases and oil installations in the provinces of Marib and Hadramawt, his home province and the place where he was caught.

A new source of anger
Economist — 19 February 2014
IN 2011, Tawakol Karman led street protests calling for the ouster of then-president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Ever since, the prominent Yemeni activist, joint winner of the Nobel peace prize in 2011, has shifted her attention to foreign companies that Yemenis believe benefited from corrupt deals made by the former president. Popular pressure helped to force the current government to cancel a controversial Saleh-era concession that gave Dubai Ports World, an Emirati port operator, control of the southern Yemeni port of Aden. Now, activists have shifted their focus to a 2005 deal that they believe allowed a handful of foreign oil and gas companies to purchase Yemen’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) at rates below market value.

Women’s Challenges, and Opportunities, in Yemen
Council on Foreign Relations — 19 February 2014
The NDC’s recommendation to set the age of marriage for boys and girls at eighteen will also be challenging to make a reality. Yemen has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world – an estimated 52 percent of girls in Yemen are married before the age of eighteen, and 14 percent before age fifteen. Islah, the influential Islamist party, has opposed setting a legal age for marriage in the past (in 1999, Islah was instrumental in abolishing the existing age of marriage – which was then fifteen – on the grounds that it contravened Sharia). But after the conclusion of the NDC, Islah members acknowledged the recommendation on setting the age of marriage at eighteen and stated that the party would not oppose such legislation.

The Gulf:
Yemen and the Gulf
As-Safir via Al-Monitor — 18 February 2014
The kingdom never wanted to provide support to Yemen’s development plans, neither in the North nor in the South. South Yemen’s first socialist President Salem Rabih Ali went to Saudi Arabia seeking support after Soviet support dried up and China did not pick up the slack. That caused his overthrow. Ali Salem al-Beidh, South Yemen’s last president before the unification, also tried to get help from Saudi Arabia and failed. After his coup, he headed to Iran, which helped him and the Houthis in the North.

Protests in South:
Southern movement organizes million-person march
Yemen Times — 20 February 2014
Southerners are preparing a million-person march for Friday, according to the organizing committee of the Southern Movement.  “The goal of the march is to express the voice of the southern people who oppose the new federal regions [map]….,” according to a statement released Tuesday by the committee.

Two dead as Yemen disperses Aden independence protests
AFP — 21 February 2014
Yemeni security forces shot dead one protester and wounded 16 others as they opened fire on defiant secessionist demonstrators in the southern city of Aden on Friday, hours after killing another. Two years after the ouster of veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, secessionist leaders called for anniversary demonstrations to press their campaign for the restoration of the independence that the south enjoyed until union with the north in 1990.

In Yemen, a woman’s life entangled with al-Qaida
Washington Post — 21 February 2014
For most of her young life, al-Hassani has been entangled with al-Qaida through family bonds she has tried to shake off. Three of her brothers became fighters for the group, and all three are now dead, two of them killed by U.S drone strikes on consecutive days in January 2013. Her story provides a rare look into one of the most dangerous branches of the terror network, which has withstood successive blows and yet continues to thrive. It has moved to fueling conflict elsewhere in the region, sending fighters and expertise to Syria and to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

‘Qaeda’ gunmen kill defector in Yemen’s Hadramawt
AFP via Global Post — 20 February 2014
Suspected Al-Qaeda loyalists killed a defector in a drive-by shooting in Yemen’s restive southeastern province of Hadramawt on Wednesday, witnesses and a security official said. Islamic cleric Sheikh Ali Bawazir was gunned down near a Koranic school in the town of Ghail Bawazir, a witness told AFP.

Countering Terrorism
Council on Foreign Relations — 20 February 2014
The only viable option for the Yemeni detainees who have been cleared for release is to repatriate them; however, this process should be done in a manner that minimizes the risk to the United States and Yemen. While reducing the recidivism risk to zero is impossible, the most promising risk-mitigation program would include rehabilitation, strict post-release parole, and a rigorous post-release monitoring plan. The State Department should allocate International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement funds to establish and operate a permanent rehabilitation institution in Yemen. Based on the cost of the Saudi program, the estimated cost for initial build-out and three years of operating funds is roughly $26 million. In comparison, the United States spends over $454 million annually to run the Guantanamo detention center. An effective risk-mitigation initiative would include the following features.

Yemeni ‘global terrorist’ says he has counterterrorism advice for Washington
Washington Post — 16 February 2014
In December, the U.S. Treasury Department branded Humayqani, 42, a specially designated global terrorist, freezing his assets and sanctioning anyone who does business with him. The Treasury accused Humayqani of using his network of ­Yemen-based charities to funnel money to al-Qaeda, placing him “at the center of global support networks that fund and facilitate terrorism.” Humayqani denies all of it. He said his charities benefit “orphans, mosques and poor families,” not al-Qaeda. “My personal stance is against al-Qaeda operations, because they kill outside the law,” he said. It may be no surprise that a person who is the subject of sanctions dismisses the charges against him. But what makes Humayqani’s case slightly more puzzling, and potentially awkward for the United States, is that he says he is willing to meet with U.S. officials — he claims to have requested a meeting at the U.S. Embassy; the embassy declined to comment — and even face a court of law.

Guantánamo Detainee Pleads Guilty in 2002 Attack on Tanker Off Yemen
New York Times — 20 February 2014
A Saudi detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, pleaded guilty on Thursday before a military commission to terrorism-related offenses involving a 2002 attack by Al Qaeda on a French-flagged oil tanker off the coast of Yemen. The plea deal will give him a specific sentence and a prospect of leaving the American military prison, where he has been held in indefinite detention. Under the pretrial agreement, the detainee, Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi, 39, will spend at least three and a half more years at Guantánamo before he is sentenced, and then would most likely be transferred to Saudi Arabia to serve out the remainder of that term.

Report: Deadly drone strike in Yemen failed to comply with Obama’s rules to protect civilians
Washington Post — 20 February 2014
A U.S. drone strike in December that killed at least a dozen people in Yemen failed to comply with rules imposed by President Obama last year to protect civilians, according to an investigation by a human rights organization released Thursday. The report by Human Rights Watch concluded that the strike, which was carried out by the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command, targeted a line of vehicles that were part of a wedding procession, and that evidence indicates “some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians.”

Latest shoe bomb threat linked to al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate
Reuters — 20 February 2014
The latest warning to airlines about shoe-bomb threats is a product of heightened U.S. concern about al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate, whose leaders include a technically-savvy bombmaker, U.S. security sources said on Thursday. U.S. Homeland Security authorities on Wednesday issued a new warning about shoe bombs to airlines which fly from overseas to the United States out of concern that Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, a Saudi believed to have been behind failed plots to attack airliners with explosives hidden in shoes or clothing, may have come up with new bomb design innovations to evade airport security measures, the sources said.

Yemen rebels clash with troops, 13 dead
AP via Washington Post — 18 February 2014
Secessionist rebels attacked a Yemeni army truck carrying food to a unit in the southern Dali province on Tuesday, killing seven soldiers and wounding nine, Yemen’s Defense Ministry said. An opposition leader in the southern secessionist movement, Ali al-Saya, told The Associated Press by telephone from Dali that the clashes were prompted by the army’s 33rd brigade random shelling of three districts in Dali that destroyed five houses and killed six people including a child.

Nahdain bombing defendants: Our lives are in danger
Yemen Times — 20 February 2014
Victims and families of those killed and injured in the Nahdain Mosque bombing have been accused of threatening the lives of the defendants in the case during a court hearing on Monday. In May, a presidential decree ordered the release of 19 of the 22 defendants. In June, seventeen were released—five remain behind bars. The five detained defendants have been on hunger strike since the beginning of February.

Six escape from Hadramout jail
Yemen Times — 18 February 2014
Six inmates escaped on Tuesday when gunmen attacked the Mukalla Security Compound, according to Col. Sheikh Al-Hamid, Mukalla security chief. Al-Hamid told the Yemen Times that six prisoners, including one Somali national, escaped during the attack. One of the escapees surrendered voluntarily to security forces hours after the escape. Al-Hamid said that about 20 unidentified gunmen had attacked the compound.

Al-Qaeda attack on Yemen oil refinery thwarted
Al-Arabiya — 17 February 2014
Yemeni authorities have foiled an attack on the oil refinery in Aden and arrested 27 suspected al-Qaeda militants linked to the operation, Agence France-Presse reported police as saying on Monday. Security forces in the southern port city foiled “a terrorist attack by members of Al-Qaeda,” at dawn Saturday said Aden police deputy commissioner Najeeb al-Mughalas in a statement published on the defense ministry website, 26sep.net.

Gunmen attack brigade headquarters in Abyan
Yemen Times — 20 February 2014
Gunmen attacked Brigade 111’s headquarters in Abyan on Wednesday, using RPG’s and machine guns, according to a security official. Lt. Gen. Shakir Al-Ghadir of Brigade 111 told the Yemen Times that the brigade responded with tanks and artillery and that the fighting lasted for about half an hour. No casualties were reported.

Interior Minister unveils new security plan for Sana’a
Yemen Times — 20 February 2014
Yemen’s Interior Ministry said on Sunday a new security plan has been developed to curb repetitive attacks on security and military locations in Sana’a.  According to the plan, Sana’a will be divided into 12 security zones. Unidentified armed men stormed Sana’a Central Prison on Thursday killing eight people, including six soldiers, and helping 29 inmates escape.

Armed clashes in Hadramout displace hundreds
Yemen Times — 18 February 2014
Fighting between the military and armed tribesmen in Hadramout has displaced a disputed number of people from Abdulla Ghareeb village in the Ghail bin Yameen area, according to local sources in Al-Shihr.  The media officer for Hadramout governorate, Mohsen Nasser, told the Yemen Times that fewer than 800 people have been displaced as a result of the fighting.

Yemen ranks 167 in press freedom index, media watchdog says
Yemen Times — 18 February 2014
Khalid Al-Hammadi, journalist and founder of the media organization Freedom Foundation for Media Rights, told the Yemen Times that the new ranking does not show improvement in Yemen’s media landscape. “The number of violations [against press freedom] decreased in 2013, but there was a serious change in the kind of violations,» Al-Hammadi said, referring to a number of assassinations and kidnappings targeting Yemeni journalists in the past year.  “The [last year] witnessed the killing of one journalist and more than one reporter survived assassination attempts,” he said. “There were six other [kidnappings],” he added.

Yemen’s gas pressure mounts on France’s Total
Reuters — 16 February 2014
Pressure on French energy giant Total to pay more for liquefied natural gas that it ships from Yemen has intensified, with the state news agency reporting that the long-term deal is being probed by public prosecutors. Total’s leading role in building the $4.5 billion Yemen LNG export plant in 2005-09 made it the largest foreign investor in the country, which is one of the poorest in the Arab world.

Natural gas to be developed in al-Jawf
Yemen Times — 20 February 2014
The Safer Exploration & Production Operations Company completed the drilling of the first of five wells in the western area of Block 18 early this week, which extends from Marib to Al-Jawf. The well’s production capacity is estimated to be 6 million cubic feet (about 170,000 cubic meters) of gas per day, according to the initial assessment. In a press release to the state-run Saba news agency, the company said that the well was drilled based on three-dimensional geological studies and seismic surveys performed by the company over the past few years.


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