Weekly News Update 16 May 2014

Highlights:
Qaeda Affiliate Steps Up Video Propaganda Push
New York Times — 12 May 2014
After years of Western condemnation for the civilian casualties of terrorist attacks, Al Qaeda’s affiliate here is trying to turn the tables in a stream of online videos arguing that Washington and its Yemeni Army allies are the ones carelessly killing innocent bystanders in their drone attacks and military campaigns targeting suspected militants. The videos, Al Qaeda’s latest response to the drone assassinations of many of its leaders, seek to capitalize on growing anger over the killings of an undisclosed number of noncombatants in drone strikes. But the campaign has now taken on new resonance here since the disclosure last week that an American commando and a spy killed two armed Yemenis who had tried to kidnap them while the Americans were in a barbershop in Sana, the capital. The Americans were later whisked out of the country with the blessing of the Yemeni government.

Aden region could serve as basis for a thriving Yemen
As-Safir via Al-Monitor — 11 May 2014
The Aden region boasts the qualifications of a full state. Previously the capital of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, the city of Aden has all the facilities and infrastructure necessary to build a state government, not just a regional government. Therefore, it will not suffer the potential ailments of some other regions in terms of lack of facilities needed by their governments. The region has the required development resources in industry, trade, tourism, agriculture and fisheries. At the level of foreign trade, throughout its history, Aden has been open to the foreign world. When Capt. S.B. Haines occupied the Port of Aden in February 1839, most of its traders had been foreigners. The city preserved its commercial standing during the rule of the British administration. The first chamber of commerce in the Arabian Peninsula was established in Aden in August 1886. After the expansion of Tawahi Port in the early 1950s, Aden became the most important economic region in the Middle East. Its port was ranked second most important port in the world after New York, and the third most important port in terms of loading and unloading among Commonwealth countries, after London and Liverpool. The Yemeni unification took place on May 22, 1990, and at that time the people of Aden hoped their city would regain the commercial standing it had lost during the period of 1967-1990 when the state in the south monopolized foreign trade.

Despite new era, anti-corruption agenda struggles in Yemen
IRIN — 29 April 2014
The 2011 street revolts that drove Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh from office and spurred an internationally-monitored democratic political transition were considered a boon for anti-corruption activists, who had spent the past decade trying to foster good governance reforms in a prevailing system of graft to little effect. But more than two years into the process and despite the impetus given to the new democratization era by interim President Abd Rabu Mansur Hadi, the anti-corruption agenda is still grappling with a culture of impunity in which people are reluctant to blow the whistle out of fear of losing their jobs, donor funding or worse.

Politics:
Southerners gather to demand secession on anniversary of civil war
Yemen Times — 29 April 2014
Thousands of Southerners commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 1994 civil war on Sunday by gathering at Al-Orod Square in Mukalla city, Hadramout to condemn the division of the South into two federal regions and to renew calls for secession. Demonstrations were slated to be held in Al-Mo’ala, Aden, but security forces prevented Southern Movement (Hirak) supporters from organizing protests in the former capital of South Yemen, according to Majed Al-Shoaibi, a journalist with Southern Movement affiliations.

Union members, February 11 Movement hold protest, call for end to transitional government
Yemen Times — 6 May 2014
About 1,000 union members gathered in Tahrir Square on Wednesday and marched to the Parliament and Cabinet, calling for the end of the transitional government. The February 11 Movement and the General Union of Yemeni Laborers called the demonstration to demand an end of the transitional government. Abdulla Al-Jabri, the secretary of the legal rights and freedom department at the General Union of Yemeni Laborers, told the Yemen Times that the union has pressing labor demands, but feels it cannot even present them to the government because it is incapable of fulfilling such demands.

Judges call for partial return to work
Yemen Times — 8 May 2014
Judges on Wednesday partially resumed work in courts nationwide after the Yemeni Judges Club released a statement on Sunday calling on them to return to work two days per week in order to resolve urgent cases. The club called on judges to resume working on Wednesdays and Thursdays after an initiative proposed by the Isnad Center for Strengthening Judicial Independence and Rule of Law. The initiative aims to resolve the disagreement between the government and judges.

Sana’a experiments with electronic voter registration
Yemen Times — 13 May 2014
A pilot project to test electronic voter registration was launched on May 10 in the tenth constituency of Sana’a by the Higher Election Committee (HEC), and will last until the end of the month. Electronic voter registration is still in its infancy in Yemen, where it is being experimented with for the first time in Sana’a this month. For now its use is limited to Sana’a’s tenth constituency, but there are plans to eventually expand its use to all of Sana’a and beyond.

Security:
Yemen president says country in open war against al Qaeda
Reuters — 15 May 2014
Yemen is in open war against al Qaeda and will go after the militants wherever they are, the president said on Thursday, as his country faces retaliatory attacks by insurgents bent on establishing an Islamist emirate in the Arabian peninsula state. In his first remarks since the army launched an offensive to dislodge al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from its southern strongholds more than two weeks ago, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi said his troops would go after the insurgents in southern, central and northern provinces.

U.S. Officers Kill Armed Civilians in Yemen Capital
New York Times — 9 May 2014
A United States Special Operations commando and a Central Intelligence Agency officer in Yemen shot and killed two armed Yemeni civilians who tried to kidnap them while the Americans were in a barbershop in the country’s capital two weeks ago, American officials said on Friday. The two Americans, attached to the United States Embassy, were whisked out of the volatile Middle East nation within a few days of the shooting, with the blessing of the Yemeni government, American officials said. News of the shootings comes at a perilous moment for the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, whose collaboration with American drone strikes against suspected members of Al Qaeda is already a subject of seething resentment in Yemen.

Militants attack presidential palace in mounting Yemen turmoil
Reuters — 9 May 2014
Suspected al Qaeda-linked gunmen attacked Yemen’s presidential palace on Friday and tried to kill the defense minister in his car, selecting high profile targets in apparent reprisal for the army’s biggest push against militants in nearly two years. Four soldiers were killed in a gun battle of up to an hour that broke out when militants attacked the main gate of the palace in the capital Sanaa, a security source said.

This time, people support the war
Economist — 9 May 2014
WAR often makes people patriotic. But Yemeni, on the whole, have recently been sceptical of it. They tend to condemn American drone attacks on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the local offshoot of the jihadist group, deeming them counter-productive and a violation of Yemen’s sovereignty. Moreover, many Yemenis distrust their own army, seeing it as divisive and ineffective. The civilian casualties as a result of the drone attacks have made Yemenis even less keen to take part in the war against al-Qaeda. But they seem to be reacting more favourably to the latest offensive against AQAP’s strongholds in the south, which started on April 29th. This time ordinary Yemenis seem to have rallied behind their national army. Many activists who are usually doubtful of such ventures have joined a chorus on Twitter condemning AQAP and demanding that the Yemeni army confronts the group once and for all.

In Yemen, a Counterterrorism Challenge
New York Times — 10 May 2014
After years of a tortuous relationship with Ali Abdullah Saleh, the strongman who was president of Yemen for more than two decades, Obama administration officials hoped to bolster the credibility at home of Mr. Saleh’s successor, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, seen as critical to the American fight against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But the administration continues to have trouble with those efforts.

Hunting Al Qaeda: America’s Epic Yemen Fail
Daily Beast — 15 May 2014
“The drones are far more costly than the [U.S.] government will admit,” says Bodine. What are needed are programs that will recruit people to the government cause, but when you are blowing away suspects all over the map—and too often the wrong suspects— “you move people onto the ‘active inactive’ list,” meaning they give at least passive support to Al Qaeda. “When we hit the wrong target, we also look incompetent,” says Bodine, “It’s all well and good to push back Al Qaeda, but if we destroy a little village and the villagers get no assistance, we just lost them twice,” says Bodine. “We need to rebuild what we take back from Al Qaeda.” And that’s not being done.

2 Yemenis Shot by Americans Are Linked to Qaeda Cell
New York Times — 10 May 2014
While much about the encounter remains unclear, a Yemeni official said Saturday that the two Yemeni assailants were part of a cell linked to Al Qaeda that had planned and executed several attacks on foreigners in the country. Whether by design or chance, the official said, the Americans had apparently disrupted a kidnapping ring that government officials blame for killing a Frenchman last week, kidnapping a Dutch couple last year, trying to assassinate a German diplomat last month, and attacking the central prison here in February, freeing 19 inmates.

Fierce clashes between al-Qaida militants and Yemen’s military in southern town kill 42
AP via U.S. News & World Report — 14 May 2014
Fierce fighting between soldiers and al-Qaida militants in southern Yemen killed at least 42 people Wednesday, as families fled past destroyed homes, burning cars and streets littered with corpses, witnesses and officials said. The fighting in the town of Azzan in Shabwa province comes amid an ongoing army offensive against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen’s local branch of the terror group that the U.S. considers the world’s most dangerous. Al-Qaida militants tried to retake the town in a dawn attack as government warplanes and naval forces bombed militants hiding in homes, officials said. Soldiers battled militants for hours in street-to-street clashes.

UK troops working with US military at base for Yemen drone operations
Guardian — 12 May 2014
British liaison staff are embedded with US forces in the Horn of Africa, the Ministry of Defence has revealed, as concern grows about redeployment of the UK squadron of 10 armed Reaper drones. Although three British officers are based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti – the US base from which unmanned strikes are launched against al-Qaida groups in Yemen – the MoD denies they are involved in co-ordinating such attacks.

Kidnapped German freed in Yemen: official
Xinhua — 13 May 2014
A German national who was kidnapped earlier this year by Yemeni gunmen in the capital Sanaa was released on Tuesday, a Yemeni interior official told Xinhua. The German was kidnapped in February and then moved as a hostage to the neighboring northeastern province of Marib. The release was mediated by the governor of the neighboring province of al-Jouf and some tribal leaders, in return for a ransom and the release of the kidnappers’ relatives from the Yemeni government jail, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Central Bank employees visit colleagues’ kidnapper: Strike ongoing
Yemen Times — 8 May 2014
Employees from the Central Bank of Yemen’s branch in Al-Jawf governorate remain without pay for April as five of their colleagues continue to be held by tribesmen. About forty employees visited one of the kidnappers at his home in Al-Jawf, demanding the release of their colleagues.

The CIA’s Bro Culture Is Doing Yemen No Favors
Vice — 12 May 2014
The cavalier bravado of the IC’s bro culture in Yemen crops up regularly amidst the daily lives of the individuals that live there. Mini buses shuttling people to and from work must routinely make way for black SUVs with white, bearded faces peering from the windows and resting against the crane stock butts of customized M4s. Images like these in Yemen’s urban centers dovetail perfectly into news of drone strikes blanketing the countryside and “schwacking” wedding convoys and kids along with the occasional bad guy. For many average Yemenis, it must be beginning to feel a lot like a foreign occupation.

Suicide bomber kills 11 people in latest Yemen violence
Reuters — 11 May 2014
A suicide car bomber killed 10 Yemeni soldiers and one civilian and wounded many others on Sunday after targeting a military police building in the southern coastal city of Mukallah, state news agency Saba said. The blast appeared to be a revenge attack by al Qaeda over the Yemeni army’s campaign to crush Islamist insurgents in two large southern provinces.

DNA test: Remains from airstrike in Yemen not those of al Qaeda bomb-maker
CNN — 28 April 2014
The remains of a Saudi national killed in airstrikes in Yemen earlier this month are not those of a wanted al Qaeda bomb-maker, according to multiple sources in Saudi Arabia who were briefed on the matter. DNA tests conducted by Saudi officials showed that the remains were not those of Ibrahim al-Asiri, they said.

Al-Qaeda fighters attack Yemen army posts
Al-Jazeera — 14 May 2014
At least 23 people have been killed after suspected al-Qaeda fighters simultaneously attacked two army positions in southern Yemen, highlighting a deteriorating security situation which is the toughest challenge facing the government. General Mohsen Saeed al-Ghazali, an aide to the country’s defence minister, nine other soldiers and 13 fighters died in the clashes, which focused on military positions in Azzan and neighbouring Jul al-Rida, the army said on Wednesday.

Yemen moves to set up rehab center for Gitmo detainees
Al-Jazeera — 14 May 2014
Yemen is to formally look into building a secure rehabilitation center for radicals — a move that could hasten the return of its citizens held in the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention center on Cuba. The announcement, which came in a presidential decree carried by state media on Wednesday, is a significant step forward for the project, which is influenced by a similar center in Saudi Arabia. The decree said a committee had been set up to advance the project, but did not say if funds had been earmarked. The center would need a high level of security in a country beset by violence by armed fighters and with a history of jailbreaks.

Yemen says army captures al Qaeda stronghold
Reuters — 6 May 2014
Yemeni government forces captured al Qaeda’s main stronghold in the southern part of the country on Tuesday after insurgents blew up the local government compound there and fled, the Defence Ministry said. The mountainous al-Mahfad area of Abyan province, along with Azzan in the adjacent province of Shabwa, has been the militants’ main stronghold in Yemen since 2012. In that year, the Yemeni army, with U.S. help, drove the fighters from towns they had seized during a chaotic national uprising in 2011.

Al Qaeda gunmen kill French EU worker in Yemen, officials say
CNN — 5 May 2014
Al Qaeda gunmen killed at least two people Monday, including a French employee of the European Union’s mission to Yemen, in one of the latest acts of violence in the country’s capital after the government’s crackdown on the terror group, two high-level Yemeni government officials said. The attack shows that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is responding to a weeks-long government offensive with “open warfare,” an official said on condition of anonymity.

Yemen’s war against al-Qaeda
Al-Jazeera — 13 May 2014
For the government it’s an all out war to defeat al-Qaeda. Military commanders say they’re determined this time to continue the onslaught until al-Qaeda operatives surrender or get killed. But the reality on the ground is totally different. The biggest military offensive is focused on two main al-Qaeda strongholds, Shabwa and Abyan. The army has so far recaptured two major areas, Azzan in Shabwa and Mahfad in Abyan. It’s massing troops for a decisive confrontation in Houta, the fighters’ last stronghold in Shabwa. Government officials say they are making huge gains … But it seems al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) hasn’t suffered big losses. Its fighters are reported to have sneaked into neighbouring provinces like Maarib and Al Baida where they enjoy massive support among sympathetic tribesmen.There, they can regroup, rebuild new bases and wait for an opportune time to hit back.

Yemen says arrests cell planning to kidnap UAE diplomat
Reuters — 30 April 2014
Yemen said on Wednesday it had arrested a militant cell that had been planning to kidnap the United Arab Emirates’ charge d’affaires, after a string of abductions that have targeted Westerners and diplomats in the country. Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Mohammed al-Qaidy said security forces arrested the six members of what it called a terrorist cell a month ago, and found weapons, fake passports and fake Yemeni currency in their possession.

Terror takes a hit in Yemen
Boston Globe — 25 April 2014
Since President Hadi took power, the United States has spent $250 million on humanitarian efforts, $100 million on economic development, and $40 million in support of the ambitious political transition that he is leading. That total is more than the US has spent on support for Yemeni counterterrorism efforts, and one crucial reason why the Yemenis are also sticking with a program that benefits everyone — except the terrorists.

Officer assassinated outside Defense Ministry linguistics institute
Yemen Times — 6 May 2014
A security officer was assassinated Monday by two unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle outside the Defense Ministry’s linguistics institute on Tunis Street. The man killed has been identified as Mohammed Qawza. Ameen Mohammed Abdulqader, a staff member at the institute, told the Yemen Times that the institute shut down one week ago after receiving threats from Al-Qaeda. “We informed the Interior Ministry about the threats and requested protection, including military vehicles and soldiers to protect the institute,” he said. “Two days ago, they gave us what we requested, but they didn’t [really] protect us,” Abdulqader said.

Yemeni air strike kills five suspected militants in south
Reuters — 5 May 2014
Five suspected al Qaeda militants were killed when Yemeni fighter planes targeted their vehicle in the southern province of Shabwa, military sources said, as part of a sustained army offensive against Islamist insurgents.

Popular committees in Shabwa suspend defense activities
Yemen Times — 13 May 2014
The popular committees in Shabwa said on Friday that they would suspend their defense activities for one week or until they are given the same privileges that popular committees in other governorates receive. The popular committees issued a statement saying their move aims to pressure the government into granting them privileges given to other popular committees elsewhere.

Tribal groups attempt to broker peace in Abyan, Shabwa
Yemen Times — 8 May 2014
Separate tribal groups are attempting to broker peace between the military and alleged Al-Qaeda militants in Abyan and Shabwa governorates after a week of fighting. Tribal sheikhs from the Bakazim tribe in Abyan governorate told the Yemen Times on Tuesday that they are seeking to mediate between the army and Al-Qaeda militants to bring an end to the fighting. The tribe is located in the Al-Mahfad district, which has been the scene of heavy fighting over the last few days. The tribe says it is seeking to avoid further civilian deaths and wants the military to evacuate the area.

Abu Hamza was ‘mouthpiece’ for 1998 Yemen kidnappings group
BBC News — 16 May 2014
Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has denied being involved in the 1998 abduction of 16 Western tourists in Yemen, telling a jury he acted as “a mouthpiece” for the kidnap group. Giving evidence for a third day in New York, Abu Hamza said he had provided the kidnappers with a satellite phone but said he had not known of the plot. Abu Hamza, 56, likened himself to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

Women’s unit prepares for potentially more active role in counterterrorism
Yemen Times — 15 May 2014
The Women’s Counterterrorism Unit, established in 2006 under the central government’s Special Security Forces, recently began training in the use of live ammunition and light and heavy weapons including mortars, suggesting that the all-female unit may be called on to engage in combat in the future. Historically, the unit had only served an auxiliary role, assisting at checkpoints or in searches that would require females due to social customs. A male counterterrorism officer would typically not be permitted to search women or their living spaces.

Child Soldiers:
Children, Not Soldiers: Yemen Signs Action Plan to End Recruitment and Use of Children by Armed Forces
UNICEF — 14 May 2014
In a landmark development for the protection of children today, the Government of Yemen signed an action plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment of children by the Yemeni Armed Forces. “We stand by the commitment we make today to ensure that government forces are free of children,” said Prime Minister Mohamed Salem Basundwah. Mr. Paolo Lembo, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Yemen said, “The commitment made by the Government of Yemen today is another important step towards building a professional security sector accountable to the people, in full respect of the rule of law.”

Press:
U.S. won’t criticize Yemen over ouster of American journalist, says it had no warning
McClatchy via Kansas City Star — 14 May 2014
The State Department said Tuesday that it was not told in advance that Yemen planned to expel McClatchy contributor Adam Baron and that once U.S. diplomats learned he was to be deported, they’d attempted to offer him consular assistance. Baron, however, had already left the country. It was unclear, however, whether the United States would raise Baron’s expulsion with Yemen. “We do not typically engage governments on their specific entry/deportation policies,” a State Department official wrote in an email. The official commented only on the condition of anonymity as per the department’s protocol. Baron flew from Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, to Cairo on Thursday, two days after being summoned to an immigration office and told that he was no longer welcome in Yemen. No further explanation was offered.

Yemen draws criticism for deporting foreign journalist, barring another
Yemen Times — 13 May 2014
In a statement released on its website Friday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed concern over the Yemeni government’s recent expulsion of American journalist Adam Baron and the denial of entry to journalist Tik Root, also a US national.

Al-Ayam newspaper resumes publication after five years
Yemen Times — 6 May 2014
The Aden-based Al-Ayam newspaper on Sunday resumed publishing after a hiatus of about five years. The newspaper ceased publishing on May 4, 2009 after security forces besieged its offices amidst widespread protests calling for southern secession, which the paper gave wide coverage to. On May 12 of that year the security forces clashed with the guards at the newspaper offices. One person was killed and another injured.

Women:
Yemen law on child brides and FGM offers hope of wider progress
Guardian — 6 May 2014
Yemen is poised to vote on a comprehensive Child Rights Act over the coming months, which would ban child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). The new law would establish the minimum age for marriage as 18, in line with the international human rights standard. Fines would be imposed on guardians, signatories, marriage officials and any other witnesses aware of any contravention.

Economy:
How to Pull Yemen Back From the Edge
U.S. News & World Report — 14 May 2014
Yemen’s $13 billion budget and $36 billion gross domestic product could be much higher. The government desperately needs revenue, and a higher sales tax (which currently only collects a paltry 5 percent of the GDP) offers an easy mechanism. The business community is also ready and willing to partner on domestic power projects, but the government refuses to collaborate, despite persistent public frustration over power outages. The government has yet to enact a public-private partnerships law, as most countries have, and has failed to consider codes of conduct or provide the business community with the necessary and dependable regulations and rules that are consistent across the country, irrespective of region.

Ministry of Oil: Fuel subsidy partially to blame for shortage
Yemen Times — 6 May 2014
On Sunday, the Ministry of Oil attributed the nation’s fuel crisis in part to a shortage of cash to pay its imported fuel bill, according to a statement on its website. The government says a large percentage of its budget goes towards subsidizing the fuel it imports—purchasing the fuel at a higher price than it recovers through sales.

Yemen February inflation slips to lowest since December 2012
Reuters — 11 May 2014
Yemen’s annual inflation rate eased to 6.7 percent in February, its lowest level since December 2012, mainly due to reduced pressure from often volatile prices for food, tobacco and mild stimulant qat leaf, central bank data showed. The impoverished Arab Peninsula country saw annual consumer price growth slowing gradually to 7.4 percent in January from a 16-month peak of 14.5 percent last June.

Drivers’ protest called off
Yemen Times — 15 May 2014
Taxis drivers and car owners canceled a protest over fuel shortages planned for Wednesday. The decision followed a statement by the Yemen Petroleum Company (YPC) saying that a large quantity of petrol would be distributed Wednesday morning to petrol stations throughout Sana’a. On Tuesday consumers announced on social media their intention to block roads with their cars the following day to demand that the government provide more diesel and petrol.

Total faces protests in Hadramout
Yemen Times — 6 May 2014
Dozens of Total trainees held a sit-in in front of the company’s branch office in the Khareer area of Hadramout governorate’s Sah district. Protesters say the French energy giant has not followed through on its promise to provide them with jobs after the completion of their training, which lasted for one year and six months. The training ended in February. Dr. Awadh Bawazeer, a member of Parliament and a local council member in Hadramout, said that Total made an agreement with local authorities in Hadramout to employ all the trainees who completed training. Total trained 48 people and told the trainees, as well as local council members, that all 48 would be offered positions, Bawazeer said.

Tribesmen sabotage Internet cable in Shabwa
Yemen Times — 29 April 2014
An engineering team from the Public Telecommunication Corporation on Sunday made partial repairs to a major fiber optic Internet cable in Shabwa after it was sabotaged earlier in the day by local tribesmen, according to the corporation. The corporation is Yemen’s sole Internet service provider.

Friends of Yemen:
Yemen calls for help to tackle multiple crises in Arab world’s poorest country
Guardian — 29 April 2014
Yemen is urging the international community to boost efforts to tackle its multiple crises of poverty, economic underdevelopment, resource depletion and grave humanitarian problems as it continues fighting a resurgent al-Qaida. Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, the country’s foreign minister, said that Tuesday’s meeting of the Friends of Yemen forum in London should focus on the economy, unemployment and poverty. “To stabilise the political situation people need to see the standards of living, jobs and the services they lack,” he told the Guardian. “The Friends of Yemen need to prioritise so we can use the funds that are available wisely.”

‘Friends of Yemen’ Announce New Structure to Support Next Phase of Yemen’s Transition
World Bank — 29 April 2014
The seventh ministerial level meeting of the ‘Friends of Yemen’ endorsed a new structure designed to align support for Yemen with the priorities set at the conclusion of the National Dialogue. A senior level Steering Committee was established, along with three working groups focused on the key economic, political and security reforms needed to complete the country’s democratic transition. The World Bank Group agreed to co-chair with the Government of Yemen the Economic Working Group of the Friends of Yemen.

Qat:
Qat habit drains Yemen’s precious groundwater
AFP — 14 May 2014
Mountainous Yemen is blessed with more water than its Arabian desert neighbours but the national passion for the stimulant plant qat threatens to exhaust that precious resource. In the mountains around Sana’a, farmers are drilling so many unlicensed boreholes to irrigate the thirsty crop – craved by the capital’s residents -that the water table is falling by as much as six metres a year.

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