Investigating the Abyan Fiasco: LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE [Archives:1999/01/Front Page]

January 4 1999

Investigators from the FBI (US) and Scotland Yard (UK) have teamed up to help stitch together the exact details of the botched-up rescue operation in Abyan on December 30th, 1998. They are working closely with the Yemeni authorities. 
On December 30th, a 300 military/security force stormed two hideouts of kidnappers who were holding 12 Britons, 2 American, and 2 Australians hostages. The operation, which was carried out at mid-day, took around 100 hours, and left 4 tourists, 2 kidnappers and 3 soldiers dead, and a few more injured. 
The Yemeni government was asked emphatically by the British Ambassador in Sanaa, Mr. Victor Henderson, not to use force in seeking the release of the hostages. But the Yemeni authorities say that they were forced to intervene because the kidnappers were killing their hostages in cold blood. That claim was later contradicted by the freed hostages who stated that the killing started after the assault. 
While piecing the facts of this incident remains an important undertaking, the efforts of the investigators are also going to assess the overall security situation of Yemen. They will dig deeper to evaluate the threat of violence, connections – if any – to regional and international terrorism, and how to handle them. 
The authorities deserve our whole-hearted support in its fight against terrorism. But that entails studying the root-causes for the anti-establishment sentiments that lead to violence. Maybe the investigators’s files can include the following points. 
The country needs better training for the security apparatus in order to combat terrorism. But force alone cannot achieve stability. 
A system of better accountability of how the authorities and their proteges handle public funds and how they use their power and influence is a critical component of the corrective measures. 
Another part of the solution is a fair distribution of government services and projects. Khowlan, which has been rebellious, complains the asphalted road comes to adjacent Sanhan (tribe of the president) and stops there. The electric current comes to Sanhan and stops there.One can go out there and check these facts. 
Finally, the law must be respected by all, and justice must be dispensed to all. In today’s Yemen, the law does not apply to influential members of the ruling power structure. And justice is not available to the weak. 
The people need to trust/respect officials before they’ll obey them.