Latest attack on Islamic Jihad group in Abyan is a clear exampleYemen’s anti-terrorism efforts continue [Archives:2003/646/Community]
Yasser Mohammed Al-Mayyasi
SANAA – The militant attack on a military-medical convoy more than a week ago injuring seven people, was indeed the start of a violent confrontation between an Islamic militant group calling itself Islamic Jihad -formerly known as Aden-Abyan Islamic Army- and security forces. A few days ago a bloody conflict between the two sides in Abyan led to the arrest and killing of most of the group's members, probably resulting in tremendous damage to the group's foundation.
However, the attack against the doctors was not the first by the said militant group. In December 1998, the same group started its violent activities by kidnapping several foreign tourists under the direct orders and supervision of the group's leader then, Abulhassan Al-Mihdhar. A failed rescue attempt carried out by security forces resulted in an upsetting massacre killing four of the tourists and several injuries. The group's leader was then arrested and a few months later sentenced to death and executed in 1999.
Despite the claims of the government that the organization collapsed after the execution of its leader, the group seemed to be reorganizing itself and launching yet other attacks such as those carried out against certain tourist facilities in Aden and elsewhere. Even though the group was not directly linked to the USS Cole attack in 2000, which is thought to be solely arranged by Al-Qaeda, others insist that some of the group's members had something to do with the implementation of the attack.
As if that was not enough, the September 2001 attack in the USA and the October 2002 Limburg attack both took place in a time Yemen was hoping to reduce tensions within its borders.
Ever since then, the Yemeni government was exposed to tremendous international pressure to crack down on terrorists and the government realized that it needed to shed the image of Yemen as a haven for extremists. The authorities did not leave any stone unturned, but there continued to be so many difficulties hindering their progress. It seemed that Yemen needed more skills, equipment, and training to fight this phenomenon, which took its toll and affected Yemen's international diplomatic and trade relations.
The awaited assistance came from the USA as security cooperation agreements were signed between the two countries to fight terrorism.
A government report was presented on 30 December 2002 to the parliament on 'terrorism in Yemen' to start a hard-line approach against all those suspected terrorists and others who may cause harm to Yemen's internal security. The report brought forward a complete summary of the terrorist attacks launched throughout the country since the mid-1990s and proposed measures and solutions to fight back and work on extinguishing terrorism in the country.
The report unveiled a conclusion that all those terrorist attacks are not the product of a small single group and is definitely not of individual nature, but rather of an organized terrorist network that needs to be identified and destroyed. The government said that many of those terrorist masterminds were from other countries. The discovery of such a terrorist cell in 1997 was one of the major achievements of the government then. The cell was found to be led by Babil Nankli, a Spaniard who operated in Yemen. Ten persons of British and French nationalities were also arrested in Aden and Shabwa governorates and were found to be planning violent attacks in certain areas using sophisticated equipment and machinery that were allegedly sent to them from Abu Hamza Al-Masri, a Briton Islamic scholar living in the UK. The report clearly mentioned that most of the money obtained for those potential terrorist activities came from certain Islamic charities and prominent international personalities.
It is clear that Yemen suffered economically, politically, and even socially from those terrorist attacks as the country is still seen worldwide as a haven for terrorists. Today, the economic activity in the country has deteriorated to an unprecedented level. The tourism industry alone loses tens of millions of US dollars every year because of the situation caused by those attacks.
More than one million US dollars were spent only on cleaning the remains of the 150 tons of crude oil spilled over 500 kilometers of coastline as a result of the attack against the French Limburg supertanker near the shore of Hadhramout last year. The attack also resulted in raising insurance costs of sea shipments to Yemen to an unprecedented level.
Similarly, the number of containers arriving at the Aden Free Zone has also decreased. For example the number of containers arriving to Aden dropped from 4,300 containers in September 2002 to 3,000 in November 2002. The continuous loss in Aden Free Zone because of terrorism is estimated at USD 15 million monthly resulting in the delay and sometimes cancellation of certain projects of investors in the zone because of investors' concerns as they have been discouraged from starting new projects.
There is no doubt that Yemen will continue its stiff stance against any militant groups, who may be seen as potential terrorist organizations that could result in further damage to an economy that has already suffered enough in the last few years.