Separatists Say Yemeni Regime Will Destroy South Yemen to Maintain National Unity

Andrew McGregor

July 8, 2010

A series of interviews conducted by the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat have revealed a number of perspectives from leaders of the South Yemen separatist movement. One such was provided by Abd al-Hamid Talib, a member of the Central Committee of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP – al-Hizb al-Ishtiraki al-Yamani). The YSP was founded in 1978 as an umbrella group for an array of various southern political parties and movements and formed the ruling party in South Yemen before unification in 1990. The party has struggled since the central government emerged victorious from the 1994 civil war, confiscating the party’s facilities and resources. In opposition, the party has adhered to its platform of secular socialism and pan-Arab nationalism.

South Yemen MapPre-Unification Yemen

Contrasting the current breakdown of law and order in Yemen with the rule of law that existed in South Yemen prior to unification, Abd al-Hamid says Yemen could be described as a “failed unity state,” except that “Yemen is not a state, as this concept [in Yemen] usually means but a gang ruling Yemen, with the full meaning of the word ‘gang’” (Asharq al-Awsat, June 21).

Abd al-Hamid traces most of the South’s misfortunes to its loss in the 1994 Civil War. Of particular importance was the decision to disband the Southern Army rather than integrate it with national forces, leading to wide unemployment and dissatisfaction with the regime:

They [the regime] could have, for instance, reinstated the army of the Democratic People’s Republic of Yemen to military service. In one of his interviews, the brother president [i.e. President Ali Abdullah Saleh] gracefully called for Saddam’s army to be reinstated to military service following the U.S. invasion of Iraq. For that matter, he should have reinstated the army of the Democratic People’s Republic of Yemen to service following his invasion of the South! Moreover, as he advised the Palestinians to open the door for dialogue between Palestinian factions, he should have engaged in a dialogue with the southerners, specifically with the YSP (Asharq al-Awsat, June 21).

The YSP leader claims the regime is doing everything in its power, including infiltration, to draw the YSP into an armed conflict, knowing its superiority in arms and numbers will allow it to destroy the movement; “They are prepared to destroy the South completely to remain in power” (Asharq al-Awsat, June 21). Yet Abd al-Hamid believes that time is on the side of the secessionists, as the power of the authorities will inevitably deteriorate as the beleaguered economy begins to collapse. While international support for the separatist movement has yet to materialize, the international community is still able to see that there is no progress being made by Saleh’s government to stabilize the domestic situation in Yemen.

Abd al-Hamid was recently released from detention after having been charged with supporting the Southern Mobility Movement (SMM), a new separatist umbrella group that appears to have supplanted the YSP as the leading separatist movement. However, Abd al-Hamid suggests the party is as relevant as ever, claiming more than 80% of the members of the SMM were originally in the YSP.

Though clashes have occurred between pro-independence protesters and security forces at several rallies in the South, the SMM maintains it is a peaceful rather than armed political movement. Authorities routinely describe the SMM as a “terrorist militia” in the pro-regime press and accuse it of armed attacks on government institutions and military facilities (Naba News Online, June 21; June 22). Many SMM activists are demobilized members of the former army of the Democratic People’s Republic of Yemen [i.e. the old socialist regime in the South]. The movement is strongest in the governorates of al-Lahij, al-Dali and Abyan, while support in the largest urban center, Aden, has diminished due to the more cosmopolitan makeup of the population in the port city (Asharq al-Awsat, July 2).

This article first appeared in the July 8, 2010 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor


Algeria Introduces New Counter-Terrorism Measures in Operation Ennasr

Andrew McGregor

July 1, 2010

At a meeting in Oran attended by the Algerian military’s top commanders and leaders of Algeria’s National Gendarmerie, Armed Forces chief-of-staff Major-General Ahmad Gaid Salah explained the next phase of Operation Ennasr (“Victory”), a nation-wide counterterrorist offensive.

Gaid SalahMajor-General Ahmad Gaid Salah

Commanders of various military sectors were ordered to pursue terrorists belonging to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) directly into their well-concealed camps. Saying, “We are determined to put an end to the terrorist groups via the mobilization of all legal means,” the General demanded greater cooperation between the various geographically-based military commands of Algeria’s Armée Nationale Populaire (ANP) and improved coordination with national intelligence services (La Liberté [Algiers], June 24). Since Operation Ennasr began, a large number of AQIM commanders have been captured or surrendered, with Algerian intelligence already benefitting from information gleaned from interrogations.

Though AQIM has experienced difficulty recruiting suicide bombers, Algeria’s security forces are determined to prevent a repeat of the devastating suicide bombings that struck Algiers in 2007. One of the AQIM commanders seized in Boumerdès revealed the existence of a plot to carry out a suicide bombing in Algiers on June 17 or 18, but was unable to name the would-be bomber or the exact site of the bombing – under AQIM protocol, these details would be known only to the bomber and his handler. Drivers entering Algiers were subjected to extensive searches and examinations of papers at two separate roadblocks on roads entering the city – the first run by the Gendarmerie and the second run by the local police. Surveillance cameras, sniffer dogs and explosives detectors were all deployed at the checkpoints, which subjected commuters to hours-long traffic jams (El Watan [Algiers], June 21).

The Ministry of Defense has also announced a significant expansion of the National Gendarmerie (al-Dark al-Watani), which plays an important role in finding and eliminating terrorist cells in rural areas. Before the end of the year, 9,000 new gendarmes of various ranks and academic backgrounds will be added to the present 60,000 man paramilitary. A new security communications network called Ronital is being introduced to Algiers, Blida Province and the Tizi Ouzou region of the Kabyle Mountains, areas where counterterrorism efforts are most active. The unified network will ensure effective transfers of sound, images and electronic messages with the central command even in difficult conditions and terrain (El-Khabar [Algiers], June 24).

This article first appeared in the July 1, 2010 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Former Taliban Commander Alleges UK Supports Taliban, Regrets Joining Government

Andrew McGregor

July 1, 2010

A former Taliban commander who, after his defection, was appointed Governor of the Musa Qala district of Helmand Province told an independent Afghan TV station that he now regrets his choice and foresees at least another five years of warfare in Afghanistan (Tolo TV, June 22). Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi, a chieftain in the Alizai tribe, has been speaking openly lately of his distaste for the Karzai government and his conviction that the UK is behind all the problems experienced by the people of Helmand Province. Since his defection to the government, Mullah Abdul Salam has survived several assassination attempts, including a concentrated attack on his house and a rocket fired at a British Chinook helicopter in which he was flying (The Nation [Islamabad], May 18, 2006).

MaiwandBattle of Maiwand, 1880

Last March, Abdul Salam complained that UK troops had urged Afghan police to abandon their post in the Mullah’s nearby hometown of Shah Karez during a battle with the Taliban rather than come to their aid (Afghan Islamic Press, March 17; Geo TV, March 17). The 50 officers, mostly drawn from the Mullah’s private militia, were eventually forced to withdraw from their post with losses (The Scotsman, March 24, 2010). In his latest interview, the Mullah now claims that British forces landed helicopters with Taliban troops and provided military support to the Taliban during the battle.

Mullah Abdul Salam cites several reasons for “British duplicity” in Helmand Province:

•    The British are seeking revenge for their defeat at the 1880 Battle of Maiwand during the Second Afghan War. The 66th Berkshire Regiment and a number of Indian native regiments were virtually destroyed in a Pashtun victory that also cost thousands of Afghan lives.
•    The British are “probably involved” in opium production, based on what the Mullah describes as UK opposition to his attempts to eradicate the drug trade and insistence that drug producers be released after having been arrested by the Mullah. He says he has heard that opium is being flown out of the military airport.
•    The British are also interested in possessing potential mineral riches in the province.

The Mullah’s relations with Britain appear to have declined rapidly during the posting of the 5th Battalion (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) of the Royal Regiment of Scotland in Musa Qala. He was gravely offended by the arrest of his 15-year-old son (one of 27 children by five wives) by a Scottish officer in July 2008 and also complained loudly that the British had failed to fill his “war chest,” intended, he says, to be used for bribing Taliban commanders. In turn, British forces have accused the Mullah of taxing opium producers and permitting his militia to be engaged in criminal activities (Sunday Times, July 9, 2008; Independent, November 12, 2008).

Mullah Abdul Salam mocked ISAF efforts to take control of the Marjah district of Helmand in a large offensive involving 15,000 troops last February, saying that the Afghan troops left there were surrounded in the bazaar (see Terrorism Monitor, June 17). “If they give me 600 policemen today, I will capture Kajaki District in Helmand and ensure security there immediately.”

The Mullah also had harsh words for Pakistani authorities, claiming they are the Taliban’s “main support” in what he alleges is a larger plan to “kill Pashtuns.” The Mullah says that all insurgent operations in Afghanistan are organized and authorized by the movement’s Quetta-based leadership, adding that Pakistani intelligence devises the plans and implements them through Mullah Omar in Quetta. He describes Mullah Omar as being like a “prisoner of the intelligence networks in Pakistan.” Since Islamabad believes Afghan president Hamid Karzai is close to India, Mullah Abdul Salam predicts at least another five years of warfare.

At almost the same time as the Mullah made his statement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said they have observed British security services cooperating with terrorist groups in Afghanistan (Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, June 22). Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmad also suggested that the heroism of British troops in Afghanistan has not benefitted their country and that the UK should expect more casualties as it marks the death of 300 troops in Afghanistan (Afghan Islamic Press, June 21).


This article first appeared in the July 1, 2010 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor