Sheikh Naji Abdulaziz Shaef to Yemen Times: “Al-Qaeda terrorism started in Yemen 18 years ago when Osama wanted to allure a tribal prominent Shiekh in my area…” [Archives:2002/47/Interview]

November 18 2002

Sheikh Naji Abdulaziz Shaef, 62, is one of the prominent Sheikhs of Bakeel tribe, the largest tribe in Yemen. He is one of the revolutionary figures in the history of modern Yemen. He defended the revolution and the republican system since the outburst of the revolution in 1962. He spared no efforts to prevent smuggling and other types of negative phenomena in his tribal region.
Since the outbreak of the revolution, Shaef was able to gain the trust and admiration of his tribesmen and Yemenis due to his heroic deeds during the modern history of Yemen.
Yemen Times reporter Mohammed bin Sallam met with Sheikh Naji and filed the following interview:
Q: Can you explain the recent attack against your house in Sana’a and the earlier attack in Barat?
A: My house was attacked in al-Jawf by the so-called Ghailan Bin Qaed al-Qasemi and Noman Bin Naji Bin Saeed Ashabi. All of them belong to Aal Katan and Thu Hussein Tribe. Various heavy and light weapons were used in the attack.
Moreover, during last September, my house in Barat was also attacked without even knowing the reasons behind it.
At the end of October, another attack was carried out against my house in Sana’a. But thankfully, my family members and bodyguards weren’t hurt in the attack.
The gunmen bombarded the upper floor of house with rocket-propelled grenades late at night.
Q: How did you react to the attack?
A: The attackers were chased to al-Hazm checkpoint in al-Jawf governorate by my bodyguards and then by security forces.
The attack ended in the killing of Abdullah Bin Saleh who was said to have been killed by the attackers themselves.
Then, the attackers sought refuge and restored to Shiekh Ameen al-Okaimi for protection and prevented the policemen to arrest them.
But, they were chased by my bodyguards until they sought protection at their homes and villages in Barat. They remained under siege for 4 days. Afterwards and in response to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s directives, I ordered my bodyguards to allow the security forces to take over and try to capture the attackers.
So far however, none of them were arrested.
Q: Why did the attackers attack your house? Do they have any political affiliation?
A: First and foremost, I want to emphasize that there are no individual discrepancies between me and the attackers as persons. They were incited by the al-Qaeda terrorist network where they have been part of for about 10 years. The attack was a direct consequence of our continuous anti-terror efforts against those groups.
Q: For how long have you been combating these groups?
A: It is undeniable that our stance against these groups has been solid for a long period of time. Just as we opposed the socialist, al-Ba’ath and Nassarite movements during the pre and post-unification period, we also expressed our strong stances against the second Gulf War, the September 11 terrorist attacks, the USS Cole incident and the explosion of the French supertanker Limburg.
Our solid stance by our principles has resulted in an increasing number of enemies.
We totally reject all kinds of terrorist acts, which totally contradict with the spirit of Islam. True Muslims are not killers, bandits, or irritators.
Q: So, what is your advice to those alleged al-Qaeda members?
A: I call upon them to be moderate and return to the Holy Qura’an and Sunnah (Muslim law, based on words and acts of prophet Muhammad, peace be upon to him). The Qura’an and the Sunnah are the main sources of legislation that should be depended on.
This is the suitable solution for dealing with non-Muslims in order to guarantee the mutual interest and good cooperation without damaging others’ interests whatever their religious affiliations.
Despite the variety of races and communities living in the four corners of the world, we as humans need to come together under the same roof. We are in need of each other. Disagreement and instability anywhere on the plant could potentially harm the security of all mankind.
Q: How do you view the attitude of the Arab and world leaders towards the current global developments?
A: I truly appreciate our president’s strenuous efforts and his leading role along with his Arab counterparts towards peace and security in the region. I also appreciate the role played by Saudi Arabia, the US administration, and the European community in combating terrorism.
We hope that they will unify their stance and determine the correct notion of terrorism for the sake of the whole community. This will enable them to avoid further terrorism that may occur as a result of these terrorist groups.
We are looking for communities that can enjoy stability and security a way from extremism, disunity, malice and hatred. We are in need of equal relationships based on the proper thought along with discarding the religious, ethnic and ancestral biases.
Q: When do you think did Osama bin Laden’s activities start in Yemen?
A: Al-Qaeda terrorism started in Yemen 18 years ago when Osama wanted to allure a tribal prominent Shiekh in my area called Afraj bin Mohammed Hadhban. He was allured by a number of cars and an amount of money estimated at USD 1.5 million in order to conduct terrorist operations in our area. But Afraj was a wise man and was never persuaded to revolt against me or against his own people. This is what Afraj told me two years ago.
Despite the fact that al-Qaeda’s hates us and hates all those who oppose terrorism, we have made every effort to give them pieces of advice to discard their aberrant behaviors.
Q: Rumors say that your relations with your brothers in Saudi Arabia and others living there have deteriorated. How do you respond to such rumors?
A: I want to emphasize that Yemen and Saudi Arabia are the prime targets of terrorism and this is known to all. Concerning my relations with our brothers in the Saudi Arabia, they are undoubtedly strong and solid. What has been rumored is groundless. This has been done to cause mere trouble to our unique bilateral relations.
Q: Any last comment?
A: We thank God that the latest difficulties and incidents have deepened our understanding and made us know who our true friends or foes are.
I hope that the nation of Islam becomes united in order to be dignified in the future.