A Yemen Times report on the U.S. aerial attack on a suspected al-Qaeda training camp in southern Yemen said that "According to a local source in the area, 82 civilians were killed and more than 213 were injured. Most of them were women and children from the nomad community in the district. . . . [M]ost of the civilian causalities were located between one to two kilometers away from the jihadist’s camp." -- The Long War Journal, a website more and more cited in mainstream media claiming "a senior U.S. military intelligence official" among its sources, confirmed ABC News's report that U.S. cruise missiles were used. -- On Monday, four days after the attack, two unmasked "Al Qaeda militants" appeared at an anti-government rally to tell soldiers that their war was with "America and its lackeys," not them, Reuters reported. -- The rally was held at site attacked. -- (After the rally, "[a]n explosion killed three [more] people during the protest," Reuters said.) -- AFP said "49 civilians," including "23 children and 17 women," were killed in the Thursday attack. -- Yemeni state media blamed the deaths of "young locals" after the rally on an attempt by al-Qaeda to "ambush policemen." -- Commenting on Thursday's raid, an editiorialist at the Yemeni Post expressed outrage that in Thursday's aerial bombardment "90% of those killed were innocent locals, children, and women. Only a few of the killed were Al-Qaeda followers as according to sources, most of them were able to flee the region and escape." -- "[W]hat is the duty of the government in Yemen, other than oppressing its citizens?" railed Hakim Almasmari. -- But the Saudi Gazette published an upbeat report on successes of the Yemeni campaign against al-Qaeda and mentioned no civilian casualties only "Yemeni security forces," ignoring completely the role played by Saudi Arabia and the U.S. ...
SOUTHERN MOVEMENT USES ABYAN ATTACK TO LOBBY FOR INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT
By Mohammed bin Sallam
** Using the international attention given to Yemen as a result of the Yemeni U.S.-supported raid on Al-Qaeda camp in Al-Mhfad district Abyan governorate, tribal leaders and activists of the Southern Movement are assembling today to induce the world to support their cause. **
December 21, 2009
[PHOTO CAPTION: Locals covering the bodies of civilians whose death was war causality in the government’s raid on Al-Qaeda camp in Al-Mhfad district in Abyan governorate south of Yemen. Photo Curtsy of the UAE Al-Bayan newspaper by Mohammed Al-Ghubari.]
ABYAN -- Thousands of Yemenis from all over the country have been heading to Al-Ma’ajana village in Al-Mhfad district where the Yemeni government demolished Al-Qaeda camp. They assemble Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 starting a sit-in indefinitely demanding an independent state in the southern governorates of Yemen. A local businessman known as Ba Suraima has already prepared 120 bulls for slaughter in order to feed the thousands of protestors, according to Yemen Times local source from the village.
Already tents have been set up to accommodate the visitors while the locals there who are mostly nomads are licking their wounds caused by the air raids on the area.
According to a local source in the area, 82 civilians were killed and more than 213 were injured. Most of them were women and children from the nomad community in the district.
Once the attacks stopped, the locals gathered to assess the causalities and bury the dead. So far 47 bodies have been recognized and buried. The Associated French Press quoted official from the Al-Mahfed on Sunday confirming civilian deaths.
However, in terms of war against terror, this attack was considered by both the Yemeni government and its allay against terrorism the United States of America as a success. Ministry of Defense stated that the Yemeni forces killed no less than 34 Al Qaeda elements and U.S. president Barack Obama sent a congratulation note to the Yemeni president on this strategic move, according to Yemeni official sources.
The Yemeni ministry also mentioned that it detained 17 Al-Qaeda elements in Sana’a and Arhab (to the north of Sana’a), and four in Aden. The arrests come within [an] Al-Qaeda clamp-down operation that was in the making in the past few weeks, according to intelligence sources. The ministry also reported that it was able to foil several terrorist attacks targeting foreigners by Al-Qaeda suicide bombers.
Saudi Interior Ministry cooperated with its Yemeni counterpart to find out if any Saudis figuring in the list of 85 wanted terrorists or any other wanted Saudis are among the dead or detained, said Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki to Arab News on Saturday.
So far, six non-Yemeni Al-Qaeda members were reported killed in the raid. They were two Saudis, two Egyptians, and two from Chechnya, according to Yemen Times sources, which also confirmed that most of the civilian causalities were located between one to two kilometers away from the jihadist’s camp.
“The air raid resulted in killing men, children and women, including some who were pregnant. In terms of livestock, 200 sheep and large numbers of cows and camels also escaped,” a tribal source reported. “Some of the causalities are critically injured and they are in hospitals in Aden and Abyan governorates.”
Meanwhile in fear of retaliation, the Yemeni Ministry of Interior directed the security apparatuses in the Capital Secretariat and all Yemeni governorates to intensify security around foreign and government offices.
Already there has been news last week that dozens of Al Qaeda jihadists and some of their leaders have moved from Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia.
Yemeni anti-terrorism security is being continuously trained to combat terrorism in the country, which has been said by analysts to be [an] Al-Qaeda haven. American officials revealed that the U.S. government is supporting Yemen in its fight against terrorism through training and intelligence matters. The New York Times reported that president Obama agreed to support Yemen according to a request the latter asked in order to get rid of Al Qaeda sites in its lands.
Officials in the Department of Defense and the Pentagon, refused to give details about the air raid. According to the ABC News, the attack used American missiles, although the Yemeni authority emphasized that only Yemeni air force was involved directly in the attacks.
U.S. LAUNCHES CRUISE MISSILE STRIKES AGAINST AL QAEDA IN YEMEN
By Bill Roggio
Long War Journal
December 19, 2009
The U.S. military carried out cruise missile attacks against two al Qaeda camps in Yemen, killing several terrorist commanders and fighters as well as civilians.
The attacks, which took place on Dec. 17, were carried out in conjunction with the Yemeni military, who targeted al Qaeda bases in the provinces of Sana'a and Abyan. The Yemeni government and the U.S. launched the raids after intelligence indicated al Qaeda was planning to conduct attacks against Yemeni and U.S. installations in the region.
Abyan is a known al Qaeda haven. The terror group opened a large training camp in Yemen this year, which reportedly housed more than 400 al Qaeda fighters from the Middle East [see LWJ report, "Al Qaeda opens new training camp in Yemen"]. Many of the fighters were Yemenis, Saudis, and Somalis.
The Yemeni government claimed 34 al Qaeda fighters were killed and 17 more were captured in the joint air and ground strikes. Muhammad Salih al Awlaqi, al Qaeda's leader in Abyan province, and commanders Muhammad al Amburi and Munir al Amburi were also reported killed in the Abyan strikes, according to reports in Quds Press and Al Sahwah.net.
Qasim al Rimi, a member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's shura, or executive council, was reportedly the main target of the strike. He is thought to have escaped. Al Rimi is a senior lieutenant to Nasir al Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a senior U.S. military intelligence official told the Long War Journal.
Leaders in Abyan disputed the government's claims that only al Qaeda fighters were killed, and claimed more than 60 civilians have died in the strikes. Ali Husayn Ashal, a Member of Parliament and a leader in the opposition Islah Party, accused the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh of intentionally targeting civilians.
"The government took pride in saying that some al Qaeda members have been targeted in this monstrous operation, while it knows very well where do these wanted elements move around," Ashal said, according to Al Sahwah.net. "These elements move around openly and publicly before the government's eyes. The government can, at any given time, target those who are believed to be outlaws, without inflicting dozens of innocent casualties."
The Islah Party is closely aligned with the radical cleric Sheik Abdulmajid al Zindani, who is designated as a terrorist financier by the U.N.'s 1267 committee and as a spiritual adviser to bin Laden by the U.S. Treasury. Zindani is also close ally to the Yemeni government.
Saleh and the weak Yemeni government are also known to collude with al Qaeda, including using the terror group's foot soldiers to battle the Houthi rebels in the North in exchange for safe haven.
AL QAEDA IN THE ARABIAN PENINSULA RETALIATES
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] has reportedly battled back after the cruise missile strikes and ground operations in Abyan. According to a report in Al Hayat, AQAP "raided government centers" in the Ludat district in Abyan.
Heavy fighting took place between AQAP and government forces, and AQAP apears to have gained the upper hand in much of the province. "Parts of the governorate, which is one of the hard-line groups' strongholds, fell into the gunmen's hands," *Al Hayat* reported.
LATEST COVERT STRIKE IN YEMEN
The cruise missile strikes, which were first reported by ABC News, took place within a week after it was disclosed that U.S. Special Forces have deployed to Yemen to work with the country's army. The U.S. has also recently deployed unmanned Reaper strike aircraft in the region, under the guise of supporting anti-piracy operations off of the coast of Somalia. Reapers and Predators are used extensively in the covert U.S. air war in Pakistan's tribal areas.
The U.S. has conducted at least one other covert strike in Yemen. In November 2002, Abu Ali al Harithi, an al Qaeda operative who was the mastermind of the suicide attack on the destroyer USS Cole, Ahmed Hijazi, a U.S. citizen, and four other al Qaeda fighter were killed in a Predator strike in Marib.
YEMEN IS AN AL QAEDA STRONGHOLD
Yemen has become one of al Qaeda's most secure bases as well as a hub for activities on the Arabian Peninsula and on the Horn of Africa.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based in Yemen and carries out its attacks against the Saudi government from there. The group is also known to operate terror camps in Aden, and in the Alehimp and Sanhan regions in Sana'a. It has conducted attacks on oil facilities, tourists, Yemeni security forces, and the U.S. embassy in Sana'a.
The terror group has also been instrumental in supporting al Qaeda's operation in Somalia, U.S. intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Yemen serves as a command and control center, a logistics hub, a transit point from Asia and the Peninsula, and a source of weapons and munitions for the al Qaeda-backed Shabaab and Hizbul Islam.
"Yemen is Pakistan in the heart of the Arab world," one official said. "You have military and government collusion with al Qaeda, peace agreements, budding terror camps, and the export of jihad to neighboring countries."
QAEDA MAKES RARE PUBLIC APPEARANCE AT YEMEN RALLY
December 21, 2009
SANAA -- Al Qaeda militants made a rare public appearance in restive south Yemen on Monday, telling an anti-government rally that the group's war was with the United States and not the Yemeni army, residents said.
The West and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will take advantage of the Yemeni government's focus on a Shi'ite rebellion in the north and rising secessionist sentiment in the south to spread its operations to the kingdom, the world's top oil exporter.
"Soldiers, you should know that there is no problem between us and you. The problem is between us and America and its lackeys," residents quoted one militant as telling hundreds of people gathered to protest against the killing of dozens of civilians in government raids aimed at al Qaeda last week.
Al Jazeera television showed footage of the militant addressing the crowd while an armed comrade stood by as a bodyguard. Both were unmasked.
An explosion killed three people during the protest, held at a suspected al Qaeda training camp bombed during Thursday's raids in southern Abyan province. A security official blamed al Qaeda for the blast, which some reports said may have been caused by unexploded munitions.
Yemen said on Thursday its security forces and warplanes had foiled a planned series of suicide bombings by attacking targets including the al Qaeda training center.
About 30 al Qaeda militants were killed and 17 arrested in Abyan and in Arhab, northeast of the capital Sanaa, it said.
Protesters, including supporters of the Southern Movement which says south Yemen has been marginalized and wants it to secede, say about 50 people were killed, most of them civilians.
The New York Times said on Saturday that the United States gave military hardware, intelligence, and other support to Yemeni forces to carry out the raids.
Saudi and Yemeni militants said earlier this year they were uniting under the name Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, using Yemen as their base.
Besides fighting al Qaeda militants and separatist unrest Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, is fighting a war against Shi'ite rebels in the north.
Political analysts say such conflicts, together with falling oil income, water shortages, and a humanitarian crisis, add to instability in a region that includes oil superpower Saudi Arabia and one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; additional reporting by Mohammed Mokhashaf in Aden; writing by Firouz Sedarat; editing by Tim Pearce)
BLAST KILLS TWO AT SUSPECTED QAEDA CAMP IN SOUTH YEMEN
December 21, 2009
AL-MAAJALA -- Two people were killed and nine wounded on Monday in two explosions at the site of a suspected Al-Qaeda training camp in southern Yemen which was hit by an air strike last week that also killed 49 civilians.
The two explosions went off after a protest by thousands of southern tribesmen demanding an investigation into the attack in the village of al-Maajala, in Abyan province, a local authority official said.
Dozens of protesters had visited the site to inspect the aftermath of the raids, when the two explosions took place, the official told AFP requesting anonymity.
The source of the explosion was not immediately clear, but the provincial governor was quick to blame the militants.
"The Al-Qaeda terrorists mined the ground targeted in Thursday's raid . . . in the expectation that the security forces would inspect the site as part of their investigation," Ahmed al-Muyasari told the official Saba news agency.
He said two of the nine people wounded in the blasts were in a serious condition.
Thursday's air raid killed 23 children and 17 women, a local official and tribal sources said. The government said it targeted a suspected Al-Qaeda training camp killing around 30 militants, some of them foreigners.
The interior and defense ministers as well as the vice premier for security affairs had been due to appear before parliament on Monday to take questions about the raid but they failed to turn up.
TOLL CLIMBS IN YEMEN QAEDA SITE BLAST
Yemen News Agency (SABA)
December 21, 2009
ABYAN -- The death toll from the blast at an Al-Qaeda training site in southern Yemen [rose] on Monday to three people, a security source said.
Preliminary information have revealed that Al-Qaeda terrorists planted landmines in the area where tribesmen rallied after a previous successful operation on the site in which about 28 Al-Qaeda suspects were killed and arrested, the source said.
The move by terrorists came within their plans to ambush policemen who should have arrived at the area to probe last Thursday's raid after reports following it noted that civilians were among the casualties.
Earlier today, governor of Abyan, said terrorists planted landmines in the area amid fears further training sites would be discovered by police.
They wanted to ambush policemen, Ahmed Al-Maisari said.
The casualties took place after young locals entered the area, he said, adding two of the injured were in critical condition.
Early on Thursday anti-terror troops launched ground and air strikes at Al-Qaeda hideouts and training sites in Abyan in the south and Sana'a, the capital, in the north.
About 34 terrorist suspects were killed and other 29 arrested.
Four of the suspects who were injured but survived being killed were arrested on Friday at hospitals in Aden.
The raids were hailed by regional and international partners of Yemen, topped by the U.S.
GOVERNMENT FAILS IN ABYAN AL-QAEDA ATTACKS
By Hakim Almasmari
December 21, 2009
One of the fiercest attacks on Al-Qaeda in more than a 5 years in Yemen occurred late last week when a government airstrike killed at least 65 people from Abyan. The problem is that 90% of those killed were innocent locals, children, and women. Only a few of the killed were Al-Qaeda followers as according to sources, most of them were able to flee the region and escape.
In result, another massacre takes place and more innocent people die.
Why is it in war that the innocent die while soldiers and criminals stay alive? Isn’t it supposed to be the opposite? Sitting with a number of high ranking officials this week, I brought up the topic of the innocent civilians who were killed in Abyan. Most of them were defending the attacks claiming that the civilians brought death to themselves because they allowed Al-Qaeda to make a training camp in the region. My question is: is it their fault that the government allowed Al-Qaeda to have camps near their houses? Dozens of locals informed the government of the Al-Qaeda training camp, which has been there for more than four months, but the government did nothing about it.
What were the locals supposed to do, fight them? If so, what is the duty of the government in Yemen, other than oppressing its citizens?
In my interview with the Saudi Akhbaria this week, the news station asked me if I consider it a success that the government was able to raid Al-Qaeda training camps. I answered saying I believed that it this shows failure for the government as it allowed Al-Qaeda to have a training camp there in the first place. No success comes when innocent people die.
SAUDI AL-QAEDA MILITANTS KILLED IN YEMEN
By Abdullah Al-Oraifij and Ahmad Al-Shemairi
December 21, 2009
RIYADH/SANA’A -- At least two Saudis -- from the Kingdom’s list of 85 terror suspects -- were killed in military operations by Yemeni security forces in Abyan on Thursday, according to the Governor of Yemen’s Abyan Governorate, Ahmad Al-Miseri.
The land and air raids killed at least 34 Al-Qaeda militants said Al-Miseri, speaking by phone from Zinjibar, a coastal town in south-central Yemen and the capital of the Abyan Governorate.
Two other listed Saudi terror suspects escaped along with others from the Lodore Hospital, in the north-central Abyan Governorate. The injured men escaped after being freed by other Al-Qaeda members who raided the hospital.
These Al-Qaeda members had earlier survived the raids by the Yemeni forces and included Saudis, one Emirati, and a Pakistani, said Al-Miseri.
The raid of Al-Qaeda on the hospital to free its members was an indication of how important they were for the terror network, said Al-Miseri.
“The two are key leaders in the network,” he added.
The governor said that they found Saudi and United Arab Emirate (UAE) banknotes on the two dead Saudi militants, Al-Qaeda contacts, communication devices, and a list what a terror network would need, including knives, tapes, and batteries.
Ibrahim Al-Najdi, a suspected Saudi militant, was reportedly killed in the military operations. Al-Najdi was found dead with a letter in his pocket and a Saudi national ID card for a man named Muhammad Bin Muhammad Rajeh Al-Thara’an, Yemeni daily Al-Gomhoriah reported Saturday.
Unconfirmed reports indicate the arrest of another Saudi Al-Qaeda militant in Abyan. Yemeni security forces said that they arrested four suspected Al-Qaeda militants who were unable to flee from the hospital Friday. The four were identified as Abdullah Salem Ali, 30; Haidara Salem Ali, 27; Muhammad Ali Salem, 30; and Abdulrahman Muhammad Qaed, 30. Yemeni forces are now fighting what they described as the “axis of evil” in Mareb, Jouf, and Shabwah, including sporadic conflicts in the northern and southern governorates of Yemen.
Security has been beefed up around exit and entry points to troubled areas, including around embassies, foreign companies, and government offices, sources said.
Yemeni security forces have arrested more than 30 Al-Qaeda suspects during an offensive launched earlier this week against the terror network, the defense ministry said.
The ministry, on its website, said 29 suspects were rounded up in the suburbs of Sana’a and four others were held in Aden, southern Yemen. At least three Yemeni soldiers were injured when their patrol vehicle was attacked with portable rocket-propelled grenades by Al-Qaeda militants led by Ali Alawi Yahmur in Lodore. Two Yemeni citizens were also injured in the attack.