Who Benefits from Undermining Tourism and Investment in Yemen? [Archives:1999/06/Business & Economy]

February 8 1999

By: Ismail Al-Ghabiry
Yemen Times
It is hard to talk about investment in Yemen without talking about the recent rise in abduction (or kidnapping) cases and its subsequent impact on the tourism industry and foreign investment.
Abduction of foreign nationals began in 1992 by tribesman to exert pressure on the government, principally to make personal gain, to bargain for more development projects, or to draw the government’s attention to a particular injustice done on them. Except for the latest Abyan incident, all abduction cases ended peacefully through negotiations. It has been suspected for some time that some foreign forces encourage tribesmen to carry out abduction incidents to undermine the country’s development efforts, especially in the tourism and investment areas. The rate of abduction incidents increased in the past two years alarmingly. In parallel with these incidents following the 1994 war, many bomb attacks occurred from time to time, largely confined to the southern provinces. It was widely thought that secessionist groups were behind these incidents, which the security forces managed to engulf.
We all remember the sad Abyan incident in December 1998. Extremists in the province of Abyan abducted a large group of tourists. The hijackers identifies themselves as faithful Muslims fighting enemies of Islam, in particular, they meant westerners. They gave the government a list of demands and an ultimatum after which they threatened -as all kidnappers do- to kill the hostages. The government in a speedy reaction decided to crack down the hideout, and release the tourists. While most of the tourists were rescued, four were killed during the storming. After the kidnappers were arrested, they confessed that they belonged to a group lead by Abu Hamza, an Egyptian national who lives in London. A few days after the rescue operation, security organs captured a group of young British passport holders of Yemen and foreign origin and found in their possession explosives, advanced communication systems, arms, and designators. Police investigations revealed that they planned to carry out a number of terrorist attacks including the bombing of the British consulate in Aden. Abu Hamza threatened the Yemeni authorities of killing more foreign nationals in Yemen unless the hijackers are released. He also admitted giving permission to kill the Abyan case hostages. On the 22nd of January, the Yemeni government announced that the remainder of the Abyan kidnappers had been captured a well, and that one of them was the son of Abu Hamza himself.
The escalation of the terrorist incidents coincide with the tourist season which had began to flourish in the past few years, and further coincided with the intense efforts to attract foreign investment and with preparations to open the first phase of the Free Zone in Aden next month.
The sequence of events, their scale, foreign elements involved, sophisticated weapons used and timing constitute empirical evidence that the waves of terror are imported to Yemen. They also show that they are too well organized, and too well financed to be the product of local conspiracy alone.
People ask: “Why should a group of British passport holders who have high living standards in the UK come to Yemen to carry out such terrorist attacks? and against whom? British targets!” Indeed, why risk their lives? What are the motives and gains? What interests does the Egyptian Extremist Abu Hamza have in waging this terrorist war, and sending his own son to be a part of his campaign against a country like Yemen?
If Abu Hamza is a self proclaimed defender of Islam, and wants to fight non-Muslims, surely doing that would have been much easier for him where he is, and not in Yemen, or in any other country.
Islam, the religion of tolerance and peace, is being exploited by some individuals and groups to settle political scores. Islam is unfortunately being taken as a pretext to fight the very same principles of Islam.
In conclusion, there are many activities happening around us that need to be explained and dealt with. We must be ready to face any threat of disturbing our development in two very important sectors: tourism, and investment. For without them, we cannot even assume that we will be able to cope with the ever-changing world around us.