Al-Qaeda makes 'prohibitive' demands to quit Yemen town
Yemen: Al-Qaeda militants who seized a Yemeni town just 130
kilometres (85 miles) from the capital this week are making
"prohibitive" demands for pulling out, a tribal leader said on
A delegation from tribes around the town of Rada, southeast of Sanaa,
met the militants' leader, Tareq al-Dahab -- a brother-in-law of US-born
jihadist cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi who was killed in a US drone strike last
September, the tribal chief told AFP. "Dahab set two conditions --
applying sharia (Islamic law) and releasing 10 detainees, among them
(his brother) Nabil and some prisoners held at Guantanamo," the tribal
leader said on condition of anonymity.
"The conditions are prohibitive given the demand for the release of
Yemeni prisoners from Guantanamo," which is not in the Sanaa
government's gift, he added.
The militants moved into Rada during Sunday night, meeting little
resistance from security forces, according to tribal leaders.
The presence of the gunmen did not prevent residents from going ahead
with a planned protest against the government of veteran President Ali
Abdullah Saleh, as they have for months, witnesses said. Demonstrators
expressed their anger at a transfer of power deal that gives Saleh and
his family a promise of immunity from prosecution, but also voiced
demands for the militants to leave, participants said. "We are appealing
to the regime to expel the armed groups whom it allowed into the town,
because we want to protect Rada from violence and discord," one of the
demonstrators, Ahmed Abdullah, told AFP by telephone.
He was echoing accusations repeatedly made by activists who have been
protesting against Saleh's regime for the past year that he has allowed
militants to seize large swathes of the east and south so that he can
play the Al-Qaeda card with Washington.
Al-Qaeda-linked militants control a string of towns in Abyan, Shabwa
and Marib provinces, but Rada, in Al-Bayda province, is the closest they
reached to the capital.
The strong jihadist presence in Yemen made Saleh a key ally in
Washington's "war on terror" before the Arab spring uprisings sparked a
wave of protests against his regime which he met with deadly violence.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that Al-Qaeda remained a
US concern but called on Saleh to leave.
"We remain focused on the threat posed by Al-Qaeda in Yemen and we
continue to work with our partners there and elsewhere to ensure that
Al-Qaeda doesn't gain a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula through
actions that would undermine the stability of Yemen and the region,"
But she added: "We regret that the president has yet failed to comply
with his own commitment to leave the country and to permit elections."
Government officials have said the Al-Qaeda-linked insurgency could
trigger postponement of a promised election to choose Saleh's successor
that is supposed to be held on February 21. AFP