Weekly News Update 23 May 2014

Highlights:
Drone Strike Success in Yemen May Actually Be Failure
Atlantic Council — 19 May 2014
Observers may cheer from afar when the body count of extremists is rising, but given the lack of transparency and disclosure, it is hard to know if the drone strikes are actually achieving US security goals. To begin with, the recent uptick in the number of drone strikes and civilian deaths calls into question the very premise of President Obama’s speech outlining his counterterrorism policy at the National Defense University in May 2013—that a drone strike would only be deployed when the target presents an imminent danger to US lives, where they cannot be captured by local security forces, and where there is near certainty that civilians will not be hit. Recent reports indicate that this threshold is not being upheld, and without the increased disclosure that the president pledged in his speech, there is no way to know if the attacks are even hitting the right targets.

Simmering discontent
Economist — 22 May 2014
THE anniversary of Yemeni unity on May 22nd usually passes quietly in Sana’a, the capital. But this year the government Abd Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi, the president, is keen to build on patriotic sentiment fired up by a recent military campaign against al-Qaeda. Fairy lights adorn the central bank and roads are lined with bunting in the red, black and white of the Yemeni flag. The celebrations are due to culminate in a fireworks display. The sentiment is not shared across Yemen. A day earlier, on May 21st, thousands of people took to the streets in Aden, a port town that was once the capital of the separate southern state, to demand independence (pictured above). “Twenty years of repression and resistance,” they chanted.

US Cluster Bombs Keep Killing Civilians in Yemen
VICE — 16 May 2014
The continued presence of hundreds if not thousands of bomblets in the area has devastated the largely agricultural economy. “We are afraid to go to our farms, to take our sheep out to graze,” Mohammed says. “We can’t work because we are afraid of this. I lost my father and my brother. What if I come across another bomb?”Gabish says that the affected farmland is reverting back to wilderness because farmers are afraid to return. In March, he says, a shepherd in the north of the province became the latest victim of a cluster bomb, more than four years after the Saudi planes first crossed into Sa’dah. Cluster bombs are often used as “denial weapons,” which make the areas on which they’re dropped inaccessible, and it is possible that Saudi Arabia dropped them where they did in part to seal the border with Houthi-controlled Sa’dah. That would mean the Saudi Air Force effectively targeted civilians — a possible violation of human rights law.

Economy:
Yemen to reduce fuel subsidies to get IMF loan
Yemen Times — 20 May 2014
Yemen’s Finance Minister Sakher Al-Wajeeh on Thursday told Reuters that Yemen is planning to reduce fuel subsides in order to get a loan for over $500 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Residents in Yemen are facing an acute fuel shortage because the Finance Ministry has been unable to pay for fuel subsidies since the beginning of 2014, Heba Al-Tairy, director of the Commercial Affairs Unit of the Yemen Petroleum Company told the Yemen Times in a recent interview.

Yemen cracks down on oil facility attackers
Gulf News — 21 May 2014
Yemen ministry of interior has said that it will categorise militants who blow up oil and gas pipelines and attack electricity towers as “terrorists” who serve the interest of Al Qaida in the country. The ministry recently said in a statement on its website that the attackers “directly serve the agendas of Al Qaida”, threatening to prosecute them as members of Al Qaida.

Politics:
Yemen: An incomplete unification
Gulf News — 22 May 2014
On May 22, many Yemenis will be celebrating the 24th anniversary of its national unification, which came into force on May 22, 1990. That historical day of union brought joy and happiness to many Yemenis, but led to the disgruntlement of others. While some saw the unification as incomplete, others saw it simply as unfair. Those disputes created the conditions of misery that Yemenis suffer from to this day.

Southern movement activists stage demonstration decrying unity
Yemen Times — 21 May 2014
Thousands of Southern Movement (Hirak) supporters and local residents took to the streets in the southern port city of Aden on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of former President of South Yemen Ali Salem Al-Beidh’s 1994 declaration of Southern secession, which led to a brief war between the North and the South, two nations that had been unified only four years earlier. During the peaceful demonstration held on Al-Muala Street in the heart of Aden, Southern Movement leaders delivered speeches to impassioned crowds that came in from surrounding governorates including Al-Dhale, Lahj and Abyan. Both leaders and demonstrators alike called for the return of a separate North and South Yemen. The event served as a stark contrast to the parades planned in Sana’a for Thursday to celebrate the two nations’ unity in 1990.

Yemen president urges southern leaders to join talks
AFP via Daily Star — 22 May 2014
The Yemeni president appealed to southern leaders Thursday to join talks on the country’s political future as separatist sentiment surges after a UN-backed dialogue wrapped up without them in January. In a speech marking the 24th anniversary of the formerly independent south’s union with the north, President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi told southern leaders they could still be part of a political settlement.

Security:
27 killed in clashes in Yemen’s northwest
AP via Washington Post — 20 May 2014
Clashes between Shiite northern rebels, ultraconservative Sunni tribesmen and military troops left 27 killed in the country’s restive northwest, security officials and tribesmen said Tuesday. The security officials said military troops bombed al-Makhath, a village in the northwestern Amran province after clashes erupted between armed members of the Hawthi rebel group and the ultraconservative Sunni tribesmen. The officials and tribesmen said 15 Hawthi rebels, seven Sunnis, and five troops, including an officer, were killed in the clashes. The security officials said the Hawthi rebels seized a military base in the area.

Yemen Goes on Alert Over Fears of Militant Attacks
AP via ABC News — 19 May 2014
Yemen put its security forces on high alert Monday over fears of possible terrorist attacks in the capital, the Interior Ministry said. The measures came after a nearly three-week government offensive to root out suspected al-Qaida militants from southern cities and towns where they have a strong presence.

Four civilians killed as Yemen battles al Qaeda
CNN — 22 May 2014
Four civilians were killed and three were injured Thursday when their vehicle was shelled in Yemen’s southern Shabwa province, two Interior Ministry officials said. Eyewitnesses told CNN that two of the injured are in serious condition.

Committee to set up “extremists rehabilitation center”
Yemen Times — 20 May 2014
The President, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, issued on Wednesday a decree forming a 14-member committee to create an “extremists rehabilitation center,”, the state-run Saba News Agency reported. According to the news agency, members of the committee consist of senior officials in the security and intelligence departments, the President’s office, and several ministries.

Yemeni militant, four aides killed in clashes with army-defence ministry
Reuters — 18 May 2014
Yemeni troops killed a local al Qaeda commander and four of his aides on Sunday in clashes in a southern province where the army has been waging an offensive against the militant network. The Defence Ministry’s 26 September news website quoted a military source as saying the militant, known by his nickname al-Meqdad, was killed in Qarn al-Sawda, an area of Shabwa province where the Yemeni army campaign has been concentrated.

Eight killed in clashes between rival Yemeni sects
Reuters — 20 May 2014
At least eight people were killed north of the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Tuesday in fighting between Shi’ite Muslim tribesmen and Sunni Muslim rivals and the army, local government sources said. Bouts of intense sectarian conflict since last year have undermined attempts at national reconciliation in Yemen, a neighbour of major oil exporter Saudi Arabia and home to one of al Qaeda’s most active wings.

Tribal mediation efforts underway in Ibb
Yemen Times — 20 May 2014
Tribal sheikhs and leading community leaders in Ibb governorate stepped in on Monday to end the fighting that broke out Friday evening between the Al-Ada’am and Al-Siraji tribes. The fighting broke out on Friday when a group of tribesmen associated with the Al-Siraji tribe, which is seen as pro-Houthi, confronted an individual from the Al-Ada’am tribe, according to Ali Al-Zanm, Ibb deputy governor.

Press:
Yemen moves to increase media transparency through Youtube in battle against AQAP
Al-Shorfa — 20 May 2014
Since the start of the intensive military campaign against al-Qaeda in the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa last month, the Yemeni Ministry of Defence has used its “26 September News” (26septembernet) YouTube channel and affiliated social media accounts to report on the army’s various activities. Nearly every day it posts video clips to its YouTube channel featuring army successes, officials said.

Yemeni government blocks Al-Jazeera from covering conflict in Shabwa
Yemen Times — 20 May 2014
Yemeni human rights organizations have condemned the Yemeni government’s move on Wednesday to prevent Al-Jazeera journalists from covering the ongoing war against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Shabwa and Abyan governorates. Al-Jazeera correspondent Hamdi Al-Bokari and cameraman Sameer Al-Nimri were banned from covering the war in Shabwa. The two were evacuated from Shabwa to Sana’a on Sunday.

Humanitarian Crisis:
21,000 IDPs in Shabwa in need of urgent aid
Yemen Times — 21 May 2014
Head of the government-run Displaced Relief Committee in Shabwa, Saeed Mohammed Al-Marnom, said that over 21,000 people have left their homes due to violence in the governorate and are in need of urgent humanitarian aid. The government has yet to provide assistance to the internally displaced people (IDPs), relying instead on NGOs.

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