US-Yemen efforts continue to track down al-Ahdal, the 2nd most wanted al-Qaeda suspect in Yemen One down, one to go [Archives:2002/47/Front Page]

November 18 2002

Tribal sources have confirmed on Friday the news on intensive military buildup and operations in various areas in the governorate of Mareb and Jawf. They claim that those operations are aimed at hunting down the other al-Qaeda elements still at large. Among those wanted men is Mohammed Hamdi Al-Ahdal, also known as Abu Assim.
“The Americans were able to get one of the two al-Qaeda suspects [Qaed Salim Sunian al-Harethi], now the other needs to look above his head for any approaching planes,” a tribal figure said on condition of anonymity.
It was also mentioned that President Bush has given broad authority to “a variety of people” in his administration to launch attacks like the missile strike that killed al-Harethi, his national security adviser said last week.
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“The president has given broad authority to a variety of people to do what they have to do to protect this country,” national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told the television show Fox News Sunday. “It’s a new kind of war. We’re fighting on a lot of different fronts.” Hence, another similar attack targeting al-Ahdal could not be ruled out.
In harmony with those developments, several military patrols had been stopping vehicles at checkpoints for inspections of weapons and identities throughout the two governorates.
One tribal leader said that Americans had been seen working along with Yemeni military special forces, especially in Marib province.
An Interior Ministry official told the AP that the military operations were part of “new security arrangements” which the government had approved at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
The official added that the Cabinet decided to establish five new “security outposts” in the Jawf governorate, but he would not elaborate.
On the other hand, Sheikh al-Okaimi, the Sheikh of Jawf governorate denied reports the came in the local press mentioning that military units belonging to the special forces started the hunt for al-Ahdal.
Sources have ruled out that he might be hidden in al-Jawf governorate. In a statement to Yemen Times, Sheikh al-Okaimi strongly denied any presence to Abu Assim in al-Jawf governorate and the news of the deployment of military forces in his governorate. “Abu Assim has never been seen or found in the al-Jawf governorate,” he said.
Al-Okaimi refuted the allegations by Shiekh Al-Shaef, who said that members of al-Qaeda network were behind the attack on his house. “The attackers are a group of tribesmen belonging to his own tribe named Aal Asha’abi,” he said.
Those developments followed the November 3 attack by a U.S. Hellfire missile in Marib governorate killing six people, including al-Harethi. The move was slammed by the Yemeni opposition parties and was criticized by officials including Brigadier General Yahya M. Al Mutawakel, the deputy secretary general for the ruling People’s General Congress party. Al Mutawakel told the Christian Science Monitor that the attack resembled a clear example “why we are reluctant to work closely with them.” He said, “They don’t consider the internal circumstances in Yemen. In security matters, you don’t want to alert the enemy.”
However, other than the statement of Al Mutawakel, no official response in the form of condemnation or any other reaction was expressed by the authorities.
Citing “informed sources,” Newsweek magazine said Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh gave the United States permission for such attacks but was angered when the hit was leaked to the press.
CIA officials were also angry and concerned that the leak, which they traced to the Pentagon, would discourage other countries from allowing such strikes within their borders, Newsweek reported.