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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

from an ex-Al-Qaeyda negotiator- protests will crush al-qaeyda if saleh leaves

Yemen Times

“Yemen will put an end to terrorism if revolution succeeds”
says former negotiator with Al-Qaeda

Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar

By: Ali SaeedPublished:11-04-2011
SANA’A, Apr. 9 — Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar, the former Minister of Religious Affairs who chaired the government’s dialogue committee with Al-Qaeda in 2006, told more than one million pro-democracy protesters on Friday that Yemen would soon be free of terrorism if President Saleh agreed to step down.

He explained that, “The real size of Al-Qaeda in Yemen does not exceed ten percent of what is being portrayed by the state-owned Yemeni media, but Saleh uses the Al-Qaeda card to blackmail Arab and foreign countries so as to get more assistance.”

Al-Hitar urged Gulf countries to support Yemen’s “popular revolution”, assuring them that, “Yemen will remain an active partner in counterterrorism within the international community, in accordance with Yemen’s constitution and international legislation.”

There have been many US air strikes carried out in various Yemeni governorates against alleged sites of Al-Qaeda operation that have only resulted in the mass killing of civilians.

Yemeni officials have long asserted that these attacks were carried out by Yemeni – rather than American – forces, but at the end of 2010, a secret cable dated January 2010 and published by Wikileaks revealed that Yemen’s President Saleh had assured the US’ General David Petraeus that his government would “…continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”

According to the cable, this arrangement with the US prompted Yemen’s Deputy Prime Minister for Security and Defense Rashad Al-Alimi, “To joke that he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan and Shabwa were American-made but deployed by the Yemeni government.”

In June 2010, Amnesty International provided the media with photographs of the aftermath of one Abyan strike, which depicted remnants of US-sourced cluster munitions and of the Tomahawk cruise missiles used to deliver them.

At the time, the organization said that it had requested information from the Pentagon about the involvement of US forces in the Al-Ma’jalah attack, as well as what precautions had been taken to minimize civilian injuries and deaths.

However, the organization later reported that, “The US government did not respond to Amnesty International but a press report the day after the images were released quoted a Pentagon spokesman as saying that the USA declined to comment on the strike and that questions on operations against Al-Qaeda should be posed to the Yemeni government.”

An alleged Al-Qaeda training camp at Al-Ma’jalah in Abyan governorate was hit by a cruise missle on 17th December 2009.

On 7th February 2010, a Yemeni parliamentary inquiry found that 41 local residents – including 14 women and 21 children – and 14 alleged Al-Qaeda members were killed in the attack.   Yet according to Amnesty International, General Petraeus is recorded as having said that the attack caused the deaths of “only” three civilians.

Saeed Ubaid Al-Jemhi, a Yemeni expert on Al-Qaeda’s affairs in the country, told the Yemen Times that, “It is only in Yemen where the Al-Qaeda card is being employed in a political game by both anti-regime protesters and Saleh supporters.”

“All parties – regardless of whether they support the regime or are demanding its removal – aggrandize or downgrade the scale of Al-Qaeda in a way that serves their interests,” explained Al-Jemhi.

He said that when Al-Hitar minimized the size of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, “…he only wanted to tickle American and Western feelings.”

Al-Jemhi added that, “Al-Qaeda is an enemy to both sides – to the regime and its opponents.  No one can accurately simplify the reality and both parties should stop playing with the Americans and the West with regards to the Al-Qaeda topic, as they are very aware and are more familiar with the Al-Qaeda threat than most.”

Al-Hitar resigned from his post and left the ruling party on March 13th in protest against the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators who have been demanding an end to President Saleh’s 33-year rule.

Since his resignation, Al-Hitar has announced his support for the pro-democracy protests and has called for the establishment of a modern democratic state.

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