Tag Archives: Yemen

US leader, Biden set to lift Yemen’s Houthi movement blacklist.

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The war pits the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement against Yemen’s internationally recognised government, which has been backed since 2015 by a Saudi-led military coalition.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday said he will revoke terrorist designations of Yemen’s Houthi movement from February 16, even as he warned that members of the group could be hit with more sanctions.

Houthi supporters hold up their weapons during a demonstration against the US decision to designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation, in Sanaa, Yemen, on January 20, 2021 [File: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]

The Trump administration imposed the specially designated global terrorist (SDGT) and foreign terrorist organisation (FTO) designations on its last full day in office despite warnings by other governments, aid groups and the United Nations that the sanctions they carried could push Yemen into a major famine.

US President Joe Biden has quickly moved to reverse US policy, aiming to ease the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and intensify diplomacy to end Yemen’s gruelling civil war.

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“This decision is a recognition of the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen,” Blinken said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said three of the movement’s leaders will remain subject to US sanctions [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Blinken, however, appeared to signal limits to US tolerance of the Houthi movement. He said three of its leaders – Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Houthi and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim – will remain subject to US sanctions “related to acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen”.

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He also warned that Washington is monitoring the movement’s activities and identifying new targets to be hit with sanctions, especially those responsible for attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia.

“We will continue to closely monitor the activities of Ansar Allah and its leaders and are actively identifying additional targets for designation,” Blinken said, using a term by which the Houthi movement also is known.

The war pits the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement against Yemen’s internationally recognised government, which has been backed since 2015 by a Saudi-led military coalition.

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The Biden administration, other governments, the United Nations and aid organisations shared fears that the sanctions imposed on the Houthis under the US terrorism designations could strangle food deliveries just as the threat of major famine is rising.

“The United States remains clear-eyed about Ansar Allah’s malign actions,” Blinken said. “Ansar Allah’s actions and intransigence prolong this conflict and exact serious humanitarian costs.”

As part of his policy shift on Yemen, President Joe Biden last week announced an end to US support for offensive operations by the Saudi-led coalition [File: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]

As part of his policy shift on Yemen, Biden last week announced an end to US support for offensive operations by the Saudi-led coalition.

He also named veteran US diplomat Timothy Lenderking as a special envoy for Yemen with a US goal of bolstering UN-led diplomatic efforts to negotiate an end to the war.

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Lenderking on Thursday met Yemen’s internationally recognised president and his foreign minister in Riyadh.

The United Nations describes Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 80 percent of its people in need.

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#Newsworthy

Yemen: Al-Qaeda’s leader upon UN arrest lies appear in video.

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AQAP claimed responsibility for the 2019 mass shooting at a US naval base in Florida, in which a Saudi air force officer killed three American sailors.

The leader of Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen appears to be still at large despite a United Nations report which claimed he had been under arrest for months, the SITE Intelligence Group and two local tribal leaders said Thursday after he was seen in a video released by the jihadist group.

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Khalid Batarfi, who has been the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for about a year, talks about the storming of the US Congress last month in the video, which came out Wednesday.

The video, which opens with footage of the January 6 assault by Donald Trump supporters, belies reports that Batarfi was under arrest, said SITE, which monitors extremist organisations.

In the 20-minute video titled “America and the Painful Seizure”, Batarfi says “storming the Congress is only the tip of the iceberg of what will come to them, God willing”.

A report filed to the UN Security Council last week claimed Batarfi was arrested and his deputy, Saad Atef al-Awlaqi, killed during an “operation in Ghayda City, Al-Mahrah governorate, in October”.

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Two local tribal leaders in the Al-Bayda governorate in central Yemen, where AQAP is active, told AFP there was a high probability the person arrested was not Batarfi but another member of the jihadist group.

“Most probably, he wasn’t arrested, and the one who was arrested was another senior leader in the group,” one of the tribal leaders said.

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The UN report, which summarised global potential jihadist threats, did not disclose his whereabouts or reveal any further details of the October operation.

‘Global terrorist’
AQAP revealed it had appointed Batarfi, believed to be in his early 40s, as its leader in February 2020 following the death of his predecessor Qassim al-Rimi in a US air strike in Yemen.

(FILES) In this file image grab taken on June 16, 2015 from a video released by Al-Malahem Media, the media arm of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), shows Khalid Omar Batarfi (also known as Abu Meqdad al-Kindi) a spokesman for AQAP announcing in a video posted online, the death of its leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, number two in the global jihadist organisation, in a US drone strike. – The leader of Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate has been under arrest for several months, according to a United Nations report released on February 4, 2021, in what will be seen as a huge breakthrough in the fight against the global jihadist threat. The document said Khalid Batarfi, was arrested and his deputy, Saad Atef al-Awlaqi, died during an “operation in Ghayda City, in Yemen’s al-Mahrah Governorate, in October.” (Photo by – / AL-MALAHEM MEDIA / AFP)

Batarfi, who was designated a global terrorist by the US State Department in 2018, has appeared in numerous AQAP videos over recent years, according to SITE, and appeared to have been Rimi’s deputy and group spokesman.

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Washington considers AQAP to be the worldwide jihadist network’s most dangerous branch, and has waged a long-running drone war against the leaders of the group.

AQAP claimed responsibility for the 2019 mass shooting at a US naval base in Florida, in which a Saudi air force officer killed three American sailors.

The Sunni extremist group thrived in the chaos of years of civil war between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

AQAP has carried out operations against both the Huthis and government forces as well as sporadic attacks abroad, including on the offices of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in 2015.

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Analysts say its abilities on the ground have dwindled, although it still inspires attacks carried out by “lone wolf” jihadists or former operatives.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict since 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition intervened after the Huthis seized control of the capital Sanaa.

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#Newsworthy

Saudi Arabia intercepts armed drone, says it’s from Yemen.

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The Saudi-led military coalition “intercepted and destroyed an armed drone,” said spokesman Turki al-Maliki in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia intercepted an armed drone launched towards the kingdom by Yemen’s Huthis, state media said Sunday, a day after the US moved to delist the rebels as a terrorist group.

The Saudi-led military coalition “intercepted and destroyed an armed drone,” said spokesman Turki al-Maliki in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

“It was launched systematically and deliberately by the terrorist Huthi militia to target civilians and civilian objects in the south of the region.”

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The incident was not immediately claimed by the Iran-backed Huthis.

The US State Department on Friday said it had formally notified Congress of its intention to revoke a terrorist designation against the rebels, which had been announced at the end of the administration of former president Donald Trump.

The delisting move came a day after US President Joe Biden announced an end to US support for Saudi-led offensive operations in Yemen.

Humanitarian groups were deeply opposed to the designation, saying it jeopardised their operations in a country where the majority of people rely on aid, and that they have no choice but to deal with the Huthis, who control much of the north.

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Saudi Arabia, which entered the Yemen conflict in 2015 to bolster the internationally recognised government, has repeatedly been targeted with cross-border attacks.

Last month, it said it had intercepted and destroyed a “hostile air target” heading towards the capital Riyadh.

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#Newsworthy

Over 20 killed in Yemen airport blasts

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The new government includes ministers loyal to Hadi and supporters of the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC), as well as other parties.

At least 26 people were killed Wednesday as explosions rocked Yemen’s Aden airport moments after a new unity government flew in, in what some officials charged was a “cowardly” attack by Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

Although all government ministers were reported to be unharmed, more than 50 people were wounded, medical and government sources told AFP in the southern city, with the casualty toll feared likely to rise.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it was preparing a “mass casualty medical response plan”.

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As smoke billowed out of the airport terminal from an initial blast, with debris strewn across the area and people rushing to tend to the wounded, a second explosion took place.

Video footage shot by AFP appears to show missile-like ordnance striking the airport apron — that moment before had been packed with crowds — and exploding into a ball of intense flames.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the explosions.

Sporadic gunfire was heard soon after.

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Yemen’s internationally recognised government and southern separatists formed a power-sharing cabinet on December 18, forging a joint front against the Huthi rebels who have seized the capital Sanaa and much of the north.

Both Yemeni Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani and Prime Minister Moeen Abdulmalik Saeed said that all the members of the government were safe.

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“We assure our great people that members of the government are fine, and we assure you that the cowardly terrorist attack by the Iran-supported Huthi militia will not deter us from carrying out our patriotic duty,” Eryani said on Twitter.

‘Unacceptable act of violence’
Saeed tweeted that the “terrorist attack… was part of the war waged against Yemen and its people”, but stopped short of accusing the Huthi insurgents.

Yemen’s government spokesman Rajih Badi called for an international investigation into the “terrorist” attack he said targeted “all members of the cabinet”.

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“It is too soon to accuse any party before an investigation reveals who executed the attack, including (accusing) the Huthis,” he told AFP, adding those injured included civilians, security guards and local officials.

Meanwhile, UN envoy Martin Griffiths condemned the attack on Twitter, calling it an “unacceptable act of violence”.

“I wish the cabinet strength in facing the difficult tasks ahead,” he said. “This unacceptable act of violence is a tragic reminder of the importance of bringing Yemen urgently back on the path towards peace.”

Michael Aron, the British ambassador to Yemen, also condemned the blasts.

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“A despicable attempt to cause carnage and chaos and bring suffering when Yemenis had chosen to move forward together,” he said.

The cabinet members arrived in Aden days after being sworn in by Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition against the insurgents.

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Hadi fled to the Saudi-capital Riyadh after Sanaa fell to the Huthis in 2014.

Humanitarian crisis
Tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in Yemen’s grinding five-year war, which has triggered what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

While all oppose Huthi rebels, deep divisions have grown between the forces and the Riyadh-sponsored push to form the unity government was designed to mend rifts.

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Saudi Arabia has been encouraging the unity government to quell the “war within a civil war” and to bolster the coalition against the Huthis, who are poised to seize the key town of Marib, the last government stronghold in the north.

In recent months, the rebels have stepped up attacks on Saudi Arabia — including its critical oil infrastructure — in retaliation for the Riyadh-led military campaign.

Yemen also still hosts a significant jihadist presence, including Al-Qaeda and militants loyal to the Islamic State group, despite two decades of air and drone strikes by the United States.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the US considers the terror group’s most dangerous branch, has thrived in the chaos of Yemen’s civil war between pro-government forces and the Huthi rebels.

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It has carried out operations against both the Huthis and government forces.

The unity government formation comes a month before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, who was critical of Saudi Arabia during his campaign amid the humanitarian disaster in Yemen since Riyadh’s intervention in the conflict in 2015.

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#Newsworthy

King Salman of Saudi Arabia sacks Yemen forces commander.

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Royal decree refers Prince Fahd, his son and four military officers to the anti-graft watchdog for investigation.


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has sacked two royals over corruption allegations and referred them to the anti-graft watchdog for an investigation, according to state media.

In a royal decree issued early on Tuesday, King Salman removed Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as commander of joint forces in the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, and relieved his son Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd of his post as deputy governor of al-Jouf region.

The decision was based on a missive from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to Nazaha, the anti-corruption committee, to investigate “suspicious financial transactions at the defence ministry”.

Four other military officers were also placed under investigation.

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The announcement marks the latest government crackdown on what officials say is endemic corruption in the kingdom.

MBS, after becoming heir to the throne in 2017 in a palace coup, launched an anti-corruption campaign that saw scores of royals, ministers and businessmen detained in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Most were released after reaching undisclosed settlements with the state.

While the crown prince has made fighting corruption a pillar of his reforms, critics say he is moving to sideline rivals to his eventual succession to the throne, take control of the country’s security apparatus and crack down on dissent.

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Authorities wound down the Ritz campaign after 15 months but said the government would continue to go after graft by state employees.

Lieutenant General Fahd bin Turki bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, centre right, was the commander of the Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen [File: Fayez Nureldine/AFP]

In March, authorities arrested nearly 300 government officials, including military and security officers, on charges involving bribery and exploiting public office. Human Rights Watch voiced alarm over the arrests, warning of possible “unfair legal proceedings” in an opaque judicial system.

The crackdown coincided with the arrest of Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a brother of King Salman, and the monarch’s nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was previously crown prince.

Family members of Saad al-Jabri, a former top intelligence agent and aide to bin Nayef, have also been swept up in the campaign. Al-Jabri, who lives in exile in Canada, recently filed a lawsuit in the United States accusing MBS of sending a hit squad in 2018 to assassinate him.

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Prince Fahd, the royal sacked on Tuesday, was commander of the Royal Saudi Ground Forces, paratroopers units and special forces before he became commander of joint forces in the coalition, according to Saudi daily Arab News.

His father was a former deputy minister of defence.

The king’s decree said the crown prince designated Lieutenant General Mutlaq bin Salim bin Mutlaq al-Azima to replace Prince Fahd.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that ousted the Saudi-backed government from power in Sanaa. The conflict, seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been in military stalemate for years.


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#Newsworthy…

[Yemen] Al-Qaeda militants kill dentist for “Spying”

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Al-Qaeda militants in war-torn Yemen executed a dentist accused of spying for the government and guiding US drone strikes targeting the Islamist extremists, a local official said on Sunday.

The jihadis shot Motthar al-Youssoufi, then crucified his corpse and left it outside his health centre, the official told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) on condition of anonymity.

The execution took place on Saturday in Somaa, a district of Yemen’s central Al-Baida province, the official added.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is active in Yemen, is considered by the United States as the radical group’s most dangerous branch.

The US has carried out a long-running drone campaign in Yemen.

The Sunni extremist group has thrived in the chaos of years of civil war between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and Shiite rebels who control the capital.

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An AQAP video contained — according to the organisation — a “confession” by the dentist to having worked with government security services, and to having placed microchips to guide US missile strikes.

AQAP operates in the Al-Baida province — which is under nominal government control — after retreating from positions in the south and east of the country, the local official added.

The group plans to execute another Yemeni accused of spying, and is holding five more men and seven women also accused of espionage, the official said.

AQAP has carried out operations against both the Huthis and government forces, as well as sporadic attacks abroad.


#Newsworthy…