Yemen: Too Much Death, Not Enough Glory


April 18, 2014: Saudi Arabia is feeling the impact of years of unrest next door in Yemen and Somalia. The Saudis know this because their border guards are currently arresting some 10,000 people a month for trying to get across the border illegally. More get through than are caught. About one in sixty is caught carrying a gun. Many of those are also found to be carrying illegal drugs or other contraband. Two or three percent of those arrested at the border are smugglers, who are arrested, sometimes prosecuted and their goods (often drugs like hashish) confiscated. The economic refugees are sent back, unless they are suspected of being Islamic terrorists. Those suspects account for less than one percent of the people the border patrols catch. Most of those caught are not locals (Saudis or Yemenis) but refugees from Somalia and other parts of Africa seeking to find a job. If not in the Middle East than in Europe, which is a lot more hospitable to illegal migrants than Moslem countries. The border also continues to be violent. In the last week thee Saudi border guards were killed by gunfire from inside Yemen.

The Saudis have been seeking solutions to the border problems for over a decade. More security personnel on the border has helped, as well an effort to build a high-tech barrier along the border. In 2003, on the Saudi side of the border work began on a security fence. Many Yemenis living near the border objected and work halted in 2004. The Yemeni tribesmen insisted that they had traditional rights to freely cross the border because of their need to find pasture for their herds or tend farmland on both sides of the border. But the tribesmen also made a lot of money smuggling goods and people into Saudi Arabia. Faced with over 30,000 illegal crossings a month, the Saudis quietly resumed building the fence in 2007 and work continues. Progress has been very slow and so far less than ten percent of the 1,800 kilometer long border has been fenced. The two countries only agreed on exactly where their border was in 2000. Continued work on the fence often results in attacks on the workers and Saudi security personnel by some Yemeni tribesmen. The Saudis shoot back and this has turned the border into a combat zone.

Even without the fence Saudi Arabia has been successful at improving security along the 1,800 kilometer long Yemen border. By 2012 these efforts had reduced the number of illegal border crossers arrested to 20,000 a month and by 2013 that was down to about 4,000. Since then the number arrested as climbed back to 10,000 a month. This is in part because of the mass expulsion of millions of illegal workers from Saudi Arabia in the last year. Many are trying to sneak back in. With the war over in Yemen, most of the economic refugees headed for Saudi Arabia are Africans (mainly Somalis and Ethiopians) looking for work. More of the crossers are smugglers, who sometimes bring known Islamic terrorists in. This doesn’t happen very often because there has been a lot less Islamic terrorist activity in Saudi Arabia since 2005. The police have a good informant network and it has become difficult for the Islamic terrorists to operate. Most of those who sneak back in are either passing through or retiring from the Islamic radical life.

One of the perennial problems in Yemen is kidnapping. This is only reported to the outside world when foreigners are grabbed. Few of the foreigners are held for ransom and are usually released once the government submits to the demands of the kidnappers. That usually means releasing a fellow tribesman arrested for some crime the government considers serious but the prisoner’s fellow tribesmen consider a minor misunderstanding. This use of kidnapping is a lot more frequent that the foreign victims would indicate. Last year at least 124 children were kidnapped, which is more than ten times the number of foreigners is taken. Some kids were held for ransom but most were grabbed as part of some tribal dispute (either tribe-tribe or tribe-government). Adult men are avoided because most of them are armed and it could get messy. Women are also avoided since that is considered an assault on family and tribal honor which often leads to people getting killed. The first victim is often the woman (or older female child who has hit puberty) followed by kidnappers or other males of that tribe.  

April 15, 2014: In the southeast (al Bayda province) al Qaeda death squads killed the vice-governor and a senior intelligence official.

April 14, 2014: Al Qaeda released a video showing a senior terrorist leader speaking before at least a hundred of his followers and calling for terror attacks on the United States. The event was in the open and is believed to be recent. What was notable about this video was how it pandered to international mass media. That worked and the video got a lot of coverage. The video was also meant to boost morale among Islamic terrorists in Yemen, who have suffered one defeat after another during the last two years. Attacks on Yemeni security forces have been costly because the Yemenis shoot back. The assassination campaign has been more successful but it does not result in a lot of newsworthy events. Drive by shootings are pretty crude and not considered newsworthy by the foreign mass media. Al Qaeda continues to suffer losses from the CIA UAV missile attacks and has not been able to win much media or public sympathy for calls to halt this anti-terrorist program that kills so many people with blood on their hands. Al Qaeda has also been producing videos denouncing Saudi Arabia, which has been very effective in finding and killing or imprisoning al Qaeda members. In response the terrorists accuse the Saudis of taking orders from the United States. This is a popular sentiment within al Qaeda, but most Saudis have had it with Islamic terrorists, especially the ones who carry out attacks inside Saudi Arabia.

April 12, 2014: In the southeast (al Bayda province) al Qaeda ambushed an army patrol, killing two soldiers and wounding five. Meanwhile, in the capital, a drive by shooting left a security guard dead. In the south (Hadramout province) gunfire left a soldier dead and three wounded.

April 9, 2014: Some 50 kilometers north of the capital some Shia tribesmen attacked an army base, killing two soldiers and wounding three. The attack was repulsed and it was not known how many casualties the attackers suffered as they took their dead and wounded with them.

April 8, 2014: In the south (Lahj province) a roadside bomb wounded six civilians.

April 7, 2014: In response to the March 25th kidnapping of an Italian aid worker the government has cracked down on kidnapping gangs and recently arrested 13 criminals believed involving in kidnapping for ransom.

April 5, 2014: In the capital a roadside bomb wounded a government official and three security guards.

April 4, 2014: In the south (Hadramout province) five soldiers were killed during an attack on a checkpoint. For Hadramout this was the third such attack in the last two weeks.

April 2, 2014: In the south (Aden) al Qaeda gunmen attacked an army headquarters, killing at least 16 people, most of them attackers. The fighting continued as army reinforcements arrived and that left six more of the attackers, five soldiers and five civilians dead.  

April 1, 2014:  In the south (Abyan province) an American UAV used missiles to kill three Islamic terrorists and wound four others. The site attacked was used as a training camp by al Qaeda.

In the west (Hudaydah province) al Qaeda gunmen killed two policemen in a drive by attack. This was apparently in retaliation for police earlier arresting four al Qaeda men at a checkpoint.



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