Yemen: The North Remembers


January 6, 2014: The government refuses an American request to extradite a powerful local politician, Abd al Wahhab Muhammad Abd al Rahman Humayqani, so the U.S. can prosecute him for financing al Qaeda in Arabia. The U.S. placed sanctions on Humayqani in December and followed that with the extradition request. Humayqani is the head of a powerful Islamic conservative political party in Yemen and has many ties to wealthy Islamic conservatives in Saudi Arabia. This is a typical situation in Arabia, where many wealthy and powerful men support Islamic terrorists even though this is illegal. The governments in the area (including Saudi Arabia) try and ignore this because non-Moslem nations are demanding that these Islamic terrorist fund raisers be shut down. That does happen, but slowly and many of these terrorism financiers appear to be untouchable where they live.

In the last two days tribal violence in the north has left 23 dead. This is all part of tribal disputes that have gone on for decades, ever since the government took away the autonomy that the dominant Shia Bakil tribe long enjoyed up there. Now the government is backing the smaller Sunni (and pro-government) Hashid tribe and that has led to increasing violence with the dominant Bakil. The most recent instance began with a battle over the town of Damaj and a Sunni religious school there. This violence up north has left some 300 dead and more than 700 wounded since it began on October 30th. Nearly half the casualties have occurred in parts of the north besides Damaj. The Sunni tribes in the north have been fighting the Shia tribes for generations but it has rarely been this bad. Damaj is about 40 kilometers south of the Saudi border and the Sunni religious school has been there since the late 1970s and now has thousands of students, many of them foreign. According to the Shia tribes the school is now producing Sunni Islamic radicals who seek to kill Shia (as Sunni religious conservatives consider Shia heretics.) Damaj has become a battlefield in the struggle over leadership of Islam by Sunni Saudi Arabia (which backs the Islamic conservatives in Damaj) and Shia Iran (which supports the Shia tribesmen of northern Yemen). Over the last ten weeks the fighting has spread beyond Damaj to two other areas up there.

January 3, 2014: A soldier and three tribesmen died when troops fought with tribesmen trying to prevent repairs to the oil pipeline. The latest pipeline attack was on December 25th, which was the seventh attack in December. Tribesmen frequently damage the oil pipeline (that goes to a Red Sea terminal) when they want something from the government. The pipeline had been bombed regularly over the last year. Each attack takes anywhere from a day to a week to repair. These bombings interrupt export of 125,000 barrels a day. Exporting this oil supplies 70 percent of the government budget. Tribes living near the pipeline want to be paid more to “protect” (not attack) it but often attack the pipeline instead to force the government to give them more cash or release one of their members from prison.

January 2, 2014: In the south (Aden) gunmen killed an intelligence officer as drove his car through the city.

December 31, 2013: In the south (Aden) a suicide car bomb killed three soldiers.

December 30, 2013: In the south separatist tribesmen attacked an army checkpoint killing five soldiers and losing three of their own. Four soldiers were also kidnapped.

December 27, 2013: In the southeast (al Bayd province) gunmen killed a pro-government tribal leader. Elsewhere in the south a tank fired on the funeral of some separatist rebels, killing 19 people. The army later apologized and said the tank fire was a mistake and was being investigated. The growing violence by the separatist tribes in the south has created a lot of casualties, and animosity, in the army.

December 26, 2013: In the southeast (Hadramawt province) Islamic terrorists fired on an army checkpoint, killing three soldiers. The attackers then drove away. Elsewhere in Hadramawt pro-government and separatist tribesmen fought over control over an oil ministry compound. 

December 24, 2013: In the southeast (Shabwa province) separatist tribesmen attacked a checkpoint, killing four policemen.

December 23, 2013: In the capital 17 political parties agreed to grant some autonomy to the south and Shia north. Details still have to be worked out and several major parties are opposed to this.

In the south (Daleh) separatists attempted to seize government buildings and raise the separatist flag. The attackers were repulsed but not before two policemen and a civilian were killed.

December 22, 2013: Al Qaeda released a video containing an apology for a December 5th attack on a military hospital. That attack was part of an assault in the capital on the Defense Ministry compound that left 56 dead including all nine attackers. Over 160 people were wounded. Al Qaeda said one of their fighters disobeyed orders and went into the hospital located there and was captured on video killing seven doctors and nurses. Suicide attackers are often unreliable. The planners of these attacks do make it clear that if the suicide attackers disobey orders their families will receive less “compensation” but when faced with imminent death these guys sometimes do whatever they want.

December 21, 2013: In the southeast (Hadramawt province) Islamic terrorists attacked a checkpoint killing three soldiers and kidnapping four others.

December 20, 2013: In the southeast (Hadramawt province) thousands of separatists rioted in the provincial capital, leaving two dead and a lot of property damage (mostly against northerners).

December 15, 2013: In the capital a Japanese diplomat was stabbed in the hand during an unsuccessful kidnapping attempt. A bodyguard was also wounded.

December 12, 2013: In the south an American UAV missile attack killed twelve Islamic terrorists on their way to a wedding celebration. The al Qaeda men were travelling in a convoy containing civilians and initial reports insisted that only civilians died. The government responded to these reports by paying the tribe that some of the al Qaeda men came from $140,000 and 101 assault rifles in “compensation”. The U.S. did say that the most senior al Qaeda leader in the convoy escaped death. Many Yemenis are quick to blame outsiders for all their problems, and the U.S. is a favorite target because such criticism makes it more difficult for the U.S. to crack down on the theft of American foreign aid or U.S. efforts to get Yemen to fix its internal problems. The Yemeni economy is still a mess and the government is paralyzed with squabbles over which tribe gets what, making meaningful reform difficult (if not impossible according to the many Yemenis trying to get out of the country.)





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