Yemen advances in war on terror: Iryani [Archives:2004/731/Front Page]

April 22 2004

It has been nearly two-and-a-half years since Yemen joined the fight against terrorism, and the Yemeni government is now willing to claim numerous victories in the war on terror.
According to Abdul Karim Al-Iryani, former Yemeni Prime Minister and advisor to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, security forces have been able to uproot and dismantle nearly all of the Al-Qaeda cells in Yemen since the country joined the fight against terror.
“I believe that it is up to 90% of Al-Qaeda cells that have been dismantled,” said Al-Iryani. “I think the capture of so many of them and the repentance of many in jail shows how much we have eliminated Al-Qaeda operations. I believe that Yemen has been the most successful country in the Middle East fighting terrorism.”
Along with rounding up hundreds of militants, Yemeni forces have captured a number of top Al-Qaeda members. One was Mohammed Hamdi Al-Ahdal, believed to have dealt with the terror group's finances, weapons smuggling and operational planning, who was captured last year. Abdul Raouf Naseeb, who is believed to have survived the 2002 drone attack that killed Al-Qaeda's chief agent in Yemen, Qaed Salim Sinan Al-Harethi, was caught last month. Also last month, security forces captured 11 suspects allegedly involved in the bombing of USS Cole and Limburg.
Before the war on terror began, foreigners were afraid of being kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen. But as a result of national security being a priority, the government has ended the phenomenon. It has been over two years since the last kidnapping and foreigners feel safer.
“The Yemeni government has dealt with terrorism in a very serious way,” said Sultan Al-Barakani, Chairman of the GPC Caucus. “If we didn't take it seriously, terrorism would have harmed the lives of Yemeni people. Thus, the government has held the war on terror as the first priority.”
Yemen and the United States have cooperated closely, as the US government has provided training and funding. And according to Al-Iryani, the Yemeni government has taken important steps and absorbed expenses to increase security.
“We have been able to double the security forces throughout the country,” said Al-Iryani. “It's been an expensive effort, but it was necessary to have an impact on the terrorist cells.”
The Yemeni government has also been able to convince tribes to cooperate on fighting terror. Part of the cooperation came from paying tribal leaders.
“The tribal leaders have cooperated a lot,” said Al-Iryani. “For example, their refusal to accept Ahdal in their areas forced him to come to Sana'a where he was captured. Paying the tribal leaders to cooperate was cheaper than any other way, like doing it in a forceful way. It has been faster, cheaper and easier and has worked very well.”
But there is concern that Yemen's fight against terrorism has had an impact on social justice and human rights. According to a recent report from Amnesty International, Yemen ratified important international human rights treaties and amended legislation governing arrest and detention to be consistent with international human rights standards in recent years. But since Yemen joined the war on terror, a number of suspects have been detained. The two-day conference organized by Amnesty International and held in Sana'a earlier this month focused primarily on bringing together lawyers and families of Yemeni detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, but it also addressed the issue of detainees being held in Yemen.
Amat Al-Aleem Alsoswa, Yemeni Minister of Human Rights, told Reuters while she was at a conference in Istanbul this month that Al-Qaeda suspects will receive an open trial whilst the Yemeni government struggles to balance security with civil liberties.
“Most of the detainees have been delivered to the judiciary, so we are not seeing the issue of detainees being kept from the law as much,” said Alsoswa. “Those who have already been (charged) will receive a trial open to the public. Yemen does not have martial law or, for that matter, a separate judiciary for security (cases).”
Yemen working with the United States government to fight terror can also create tension. Recently, the US Treasury Department accused Sheikh Abdul Majid Al-Zindani of recruiting Al-Qaeda operatives and being involved in purchasing weapons for Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Al-Zindani, once a member of the Presidential Council, founder of Al-Eman University and Chairman of the Shura Council in the Islah (Reform) Party, claims to be innocent. According to Yemeni officials, Yemen has received no demands or evidence from the US government.
According to Al-Iryani, the issue between the US government and Al-Zindani is not as serious as some believe.
“There has been no information or demand given from the US government to the Yemeni government, and it shows that there is no intention of them asking the Yemeni government to investigate Al-Zindani,” said Al-Iryani. “I think the accusations have been over-publicized because there have not been direct accusations or a demand to investigate him.”
Even though there may have been obstacles, the Yemeni government continues to make headway in fighting terror. It recently established its first coastguard unit, and earlier this month the US government delivered seven gunboats to Yemen to help the coast guard patrol Yemeni shores.
Cooperation between Yemen and Saudi Arabia to tighten security has also been strengthened. Both sides are working together to enhance security on the border between the two countries to reduce smuggling of arms and infiltrators, and in the last few weeks they have swapped prisoners who are wanted criminals.
Cooperation between countries is important in fight terrorism, but according to Al-Iryani, achievements mostly come from within.
“While some think that just the cooperation with the United States has made Yemen successful, it has really been the result of our internal and national efforts,” said Al-Iryani.