Is AQAP to Blame for the String of Assassinations in Yemen?

Qa`ida conscript Jaar (Waqar), Abyan March `12 – Casey L Coombs

In the last two weeks of September 2013, al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) executed a series of     complex attacks on Yemeni army installations. AQAP claimed responsibility for the operations in a stream   of online media releases, one of which pictured al-Qa`ida’s amir of Abyan Province, Jalal Muhsin Balidi   al-Murqoshi (also known as Abu Hamza), warning special forces soldiers captured in the raids against cooperating with the U.S.-backed counterterrorism alliance in Sana`a.[1] “There is no issue between the soldiers and us, except when they have made themselves armors for this oppressive lackey government,” al-Murqoshi said. “This soldier is the one who has lured himself into a protecting vest for the tawaghit (tyrants).”

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Migrant voices – Ethiopians in Yemen describe kidnapping and torture

Casey L. Coombs / Sana’a | April 11, 2013                                         Image

SANA’A, 11 April 2013 (IRIN) – Record numbers of migrants from the Horn of Africa are crossing into Yemen, most of them on their way to find better opportunities in Saudi Arabia and other rich Gulf countries. But many do not make it any further. Seeking a new life, they end up unwitting victims of a smuggling racket designed to exploit the migrants at each juncture of their journey.

Recent years have seen Ethiopians make up the majority of these migrants: Of the 107,000 recorded migrants crossing the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden into Yemen in 2012, around 80,000 were from Ethiopia.

Four irregular migrants with diverse backgrounds, all from Ethiopia, told IRIN about their journeys to Yemen.* While their stories differ in details, they all share a similar set of experiences: brutality, broken promises and extortion.

Marta, mid-30s, from Dire Dawa, eastern Ethiopia:

Photo: Casey Coombs/IRIN
Marta, mid-30s, from Dire Dawa, eastern Ethiopia

Marta says she fled Ethiopia in 2010 when she and her family were accused of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a state-designated terrorist group. “The government said, ‘You are with the party of OLF,’ and chased us out of country. I don’t know where my family ended up.”

“I spent a year and a half in Djibouti, where I gave birth to my daughter. After her father disappeared, we left for Yemen. I paid a broker 10,000 Djiboutian francs [about US$55] to ride in a boat with 15 others from Djibouti to Yemen.

“Our night-time crossing of the Red Sea was calm until the end. As we neared the Yemeni coast, the owner of the boat, who was part of the smuggling operation, threw us into the sea. No one knew how to swim because in Ethiopia, we don’t have a sea, just lakes. The brokers and their thugs were waiting for us as we came ashore. They raped me and the other women. I’m 9 months pregnant with a child from that night.

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TEDxSanaa: When TED came to Yemen

By Casey L Coombs & Sharon Weinberger / 11 January 2013

bbc.future.logoYemen’s reality is at odds with much of what TED – which grew out of a laid-back Silicon Valley scene – seems to represent. For many outside the region, which once flourished thanks to the ancient spice routes, the country has become known for drone strikes against Al Qaeda suspects and for the 2011 protests – inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt – that led to the overthrow of its leader.

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The Innocence Protests Expose Deeper Tensions in Yemen


Casey L. Coombs / Sana’a | September 16, 2012                                  

Anger focused on the U.S. obscures political and military problems that remain difficult to untangle in a country emerging from decades of dictatorship

Yemen had no shortage of anti-Americanism on Sept. 13 when protesters stormed the U.S. embassy in Sana‘a to express their anger over Innocence of Muslims, an obscure U.S.-made film denigrating the Prophet Muhammad. The day before, the influential leader of Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood broadcast a sermon praising the violence of protesters in Egypt and Libya for “their denunciation of the film categorically.” Abdul Majid al-Zindani, who was labeled a “specially designated global terrorist” by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2004, exhorted followers to “support your Prophet and declare your wrath, you Muslims, especially you the young men of the Arab revolutions.” Ahmed Dawood, who took part in the riot, told TIME he was recruited by the Zaydi Shi‘ite Houthi movement, which accuses Washington of backing Sana‘a in a six-year shelling campaign of their northern homeland, Sa‘da.

But did Yemeni government soldiers help the rioters enter the embassy in the capital? And if so, were they encouraged by higher-ups with a different agenda?

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Echoes of Iraq: Yemen’s War Against al-Qaeda Takes a Familiar Turn

Casey L. Coombs / Sana’a | August 10, 2012  

Tribal militias have joined the campaign against the local franchise of the radical movement. It may have helped oust Al-Qaeda from a few cities but it may not guarantee peace in the long run.

Even amid the escalating suicide bomb campaign across Yemen, the attack on a wake in Jaar in southern Yemen’s Abyan province was particularly grisly and premeditated, designed to inflict maximum damage. It took place on Aug. 4, at around 11 p.m., as some 150 neighbors and relatives gathered outside the home of local tribal Sheikh Abdulatif Sayed following the funeral of his close relative. While they were grieving, a young al-Qaeda recruit from Jaar infiltrated the crowd, resting on a cooler he had brought with him. Then, according to several survivors, he detonated his suicide vest and that blast ignited the cooler, which was packed with more explosives and metal ball bearings. Shrapnel killed some 50 guests, including the sheikh’s two brothers.

However, the intended target, Sheikh Sayed, survived. Al-Qaeda had particularly wanted to assassinate him. Sayed had defected from the terrorist organization three months earlier to head a growing force of anti-Qaeda tribal militias, also known as Popular Committees, sweeping the region.

If the tribal uprising against al-Qaeda sounds familiar, then you are hearing echoes of Iraq. Aysh Awas, director of Security and Strategic Studies at Sheba, a think tank in Sana’a, told TIME that Ansar al-Shari’a — the political front of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — is doing in Yemen what Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) did following the U.S. invasion in 2003: wage suicide bomb-led jihad to derail the country’s nascent Washington-supported democracy and replace it with an Islamic state based on shari’a law. And just as anti-Qaeda, U.S.-backed tribal sheikhs in Iraq banned together to secure their territory from AQI, Popular Committees are popping up across Yemen to combat the local franchise of the movement founded by the late Osama bin Laden. “In light of the recent attacks, it seems that anything is likely to happen and the situation in Yemen may be turning into the Iraqi model,” Awas says.

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