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Apr 26, 2010

Snap Analysis: Al Qaeda Yemen attack says “We’re alive and well”

DUBAI (Reuters) – A suspected al Qaeda suicide attack against Britain’s ambassador to Yemen shows the militant group’s resolve to carry out high-impact attacks is undented by a recent crackdown and Sanaa needs more help to fight the group.

Britain’s ambassador escaped unharmed and only the suicide bomber died, but the strong symbolism of an attack on an international target will grab the world’s attention and cast doubt on Yemen’s recent efforts to quash al Qaeda’s regional wing, which has shown it has global aspirations.

Apr 26, 2010

Al Qaeda Yemen attack says "We’re alive and well"

DUBAI, April 26 (Reuters) – A suspected al Qaeda suicide attack against Britain’s ambassador to Yemen shows the militant group’s resolve to carry out high-impact attacks is undented by a recent crackdown and Sanaa needs more help to fight the group. Britain’s ambassador escaped unharmed and only the suicide bomber died, but the strong symbolism of an attack on an international target will grab the world’s attention and cast doubt on Yemen’s recent efforts to quash al Qaeda’s regional wing, which has shown it has global aspirations.

"Al Qaeda’s message is that they’re still here and that they can attack international interests when they want," said Barak Barfi, visiting fellow at Brookings Institute in Doha.

"This was a very bold and daring attack. They targeted the British ambassador — that’s a big deal."

The Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda has been a worry to Sanaa and its allies for several years, carrying out a number of attacks on international targets, including the bombing in 2000 of the USS Cole in Aden harbour, which killed 17 sailors.

Last August, it sent a suicide bomber posing as a repentant militant to Saudi Arabia, where he narrowly failed to kill the kingdom’s anti-terrorism chief Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

But alarm bells went off across the globe when the group claimed a failed bomb attack in December on a transatlantic jet bound for Detroit, and links emerged between suspected bomber and Yemen-based militants.

"The aim (of Monday’s attack) goes back to what al Qaeda in Yemen is trying to do, which is to internationalise their campaign," said Theodore Karasik of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

Following the December bomb attempt, Yemen, already in the throes of a war with northern Shi’ite rebels and struggling to contain simmering discontent from secessionists in the south, launched a major crackdown on al Qaeda.

Concern over Yemen’s stability in the aftermath of the plot was such that an international conference was called in London, with Arab and Western donors discussing how to steady the impoverished country. No more money was pledged, but Yemen promised to work on reforms.

"So far there has not been much effectiveness from the international community," Karasik said. "The donations coming from outside are not very large at all so the problem continues to fester."



HIT AND MISS

Yemen’s campaign to eradicate al Qaeda from its turf has seemed somewhat hit-and-miss at times, notably when several senior militants declared as eliminated by Sanaa reappeared weeks later on Internet forums and audio tapes.

The United States has become considerably more proactive in Yemen in recent months. First, Defense Secretary Robert Gates in February authorised $150 million in security assistance for Yemen for fiscal 2010, up from $67 million last year.

Then the Obama administration gave the CIA the green light to kill or capture a leading figure linked to the group, American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, and only last week U.S. officials said the Pentagon planned to boost U.S. military assistance to Yemen’s special operations forces.

But Monday’s attack, even if it was less ambitious than the December plane plot, has raised the question if all this assistance is enough to tackle al Qaeda in Yemen.

"If this was al Qaeda, and it probably is, it shows they’re able to regroup very quickly and that they are a very strong and durable organisation that can withstand attacks on their infrastructure," Barfi said.

In addition, Barfi said, Yemen has enough other problems.

"I don’t think the Yemeni regime is very interested in al Qaeda, they’re more interested in their problems with rebels in the north and secessionists in the south … Al Qaeda is not a threat to their long-term interests."

A two-month old truce between Sanaa and northern rebels that brought to an end one of the heaviest bouts of fighting in an ongoing conflict seems fragile, with both sides accusing the other of breaches.

Yemen’s south has grown increasingly violent in recent months, with clashes between secessionists and security forces on the rise and analysts warning the region could erupt into an armed rebellion.

Mustafa Alani of the Gulf Research Centre said Monday’s attempt on the life of the British ambassador could bring Yemen more support from the United States.

"This sort of attack will possibly increase U.S. investment in Yemen because it shows that al Qaeda can still carry out attacks," he said.

Karasik agreed: "There will be fresh attention on the issue and the need to address this in a more robust manner … This says: We’re alive and well."




Mar 26, 2010

Abu Dhabi wealth fund MD missing after plane crash

ABU DHABI, March 26 (Reuters) – The managing director of Abu
Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), considered the world’s
biggest sovereign wealth fund, is missing after a glider plane
crash in Morocco, the state news agency WAM said on Friday.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed al-Nahayan is a younger brother of
the ruler of Abu Dhabi, who is also president of the United Arab
Emirates, but is not immediately in line for succession.

Mar 26, 2010

Dubai debt plan meant to show emirate back on feet

DUBAI (Reuters) – Dubai’s plan to avoid drawing on fresh funds from wealthier neighbor Abu Dhabi in its debt restructuring proposal for Dubai World may be more about presentation than the reality of its balance sheet.

Not taking new cash from Abu Dhabi was meant to show investors that Dubai can still stand on its own feet. But analysts say the hard reality is that the emirate could never navigate its current troubles without Abu Dhabi’s support.

Mar 17, 2010

Dubai World to offer full debt repayment: report

DUBAI (Reuters) – Dubai World will offer banks a single proposal to repay in full the $26 billion debt it is renegotiating, with interest likely linked to LIBOR, Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday.

Officials from Dubai and neighboring emirate Abu Dhabi have been working with restructuring experts to devise a viable debt restructuring plan acceptable to some 97 creditors to Dubai World, the state-controlled holding company.

Mar 12, 2010

Yemen seizes Arab broadcasters’ equipment

DUBAI, March 12 (Reuters) – Two pan-Arab news channels said on Friday the Yemeni authorities had seized broadcasting equipment from their Sanaa bureaux by force because of their coverage of the growing unrest in Yemen’s south.

A government official told state media that Qatar-based Al Jazeera television and the Saudi-owned channel Al Arabiya did not have proper authorisation for the equipment seized, and that it would be returned to them eventually.

Al Jazeera said Yemeni security forces had stormed its office in Sanaa on Thursday evening after being warned over its coverage of a southern secessionist movement on which the government recently launched a major crackdown. An official had telephoned Al Jazeera’s office earlier on Thursday, saying measures would be taken if the channel covered a meeting of southern opposition leaders, Murad Hashim, the head of Al Jazeera’s Sanaa bureau said on the channel’s website.

Al Arabiya also reported that some of its broadcasting equipment had been confiscated by police on Thursday. Its bureau chief was questioned for two hours but then released, Nasser al-Sarami, head of media at Al Arabiya told Reuters.

"They are concerned about the way we cover what is going on in the south. They didn’t give us a reason, but we believe this is the link," Sarami said.

Thousands gathered for demonstrations across Yemen on Thursday to demand an easing of the crackdown in the south. Two people were shot dead as security forces tried to quash a separatist protest in a southern province.

North and South Yemen united in 1990, but many in the south — home to most of Yemen’s oil industry — complain northerners have seized resources and discriminate against them.

Also on Thursday, Yemeni forces launched an attack to recapture a government building occupied by separatists in the south of the country, setting off a gunfight that killed two people.

Under international pressure to quell domestic unrest and focus its sights on al Qaeda, Yemen earlier this week offered to hold talks with southern separatists and hear their grievances.

The offer by President Ali Abdullah Saleh followed an escalation of violence on both sides in southern Yemen which left a trail of dead and wounded in recent weeks while insurgent violence elsewhere in the country has faded.

Thursday’s demonstrators were calling for the military to withdraw from southern cities and for the government to halt a sweeping campaign of arrests.

Satellite television stations Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya are among the most widely watched news channels in the Arab world. Al Arabiya has around 200 million viewers across the globe, Sarami told Reuters. (Editing by Dominic Evans)



Mar 4, 2010

Cosmopolitan Dubai was perfect spot for Hamas killing

DUBAI (Reuters) – If Israel was behind the murder of a Hamas commander in Dubai, then it chose its ground well: a bustling trade and tourism hub, known for its anonymity and openness, and in the United Arab Emirates with which Israel has no ties to break.

Choosing other locations such as China or Syria to carry out the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, which local police insist was carried out by Israel, would have caused much greater political damage should anything have gone wrong, while also posing operational challenges.

Feb 24, 2010

Dubai now seeking 26 suspects in Hamas killing

DUBAI (Reuters) – Dubai is hunting for at least 26 people over the killing of a Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel in a suspected Israeli operation that has caused a diplomatic furor.

Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed last month in his hotel room in what Dubai police say they are near certain was a hit by Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

Feb 23, 2010

Top Yemen al Qaeda leader threatens U.S. attacks

DUBAI (Reuters) – An article under the name of a senior member of al Qaeda’s Yemen wing that the Yemeni government said it had killed has appeared on an Internet forum, threatening to carry out attacks in the United States.

Yemen declared an open war on al Qaeda on its territory last month after the group’s regional off-shoot claimed responsibility for a failed bomb attack on a Detroit-bound plane in December that grabbed world headlines.

Feb 23, 2010

More British, Irish passports used in Dubai killing

DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates has identified four more suspects who carried fraudulent British and Irish passports in the Dubai killing of a Hamas commander, a source familiar with the investigation said on Tuesday.

The use of passports from European Union countries by the killers of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh has drawn censure from the bloc. Dubai has accused Israel of being behind the assassination, but the Israeli foreign minister has said there was no proof his country carried out the killing.