3 killed as separatists, police clash in Yemen

Updated 24 February 2013
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3 killed as separatists, police clash in Yemen

ADEN: Three people were killed in clashes as southern separatists blocked roads in two Yemeni cities yesterday, adding to the death toll of this week’s violence in the troubled south of the country.
“A policeman was killed and another wounded in clashes when security forces intervened after gunmen from the Southern Movement blocked roads” in Aden, General Abdulhafez Al-Saqqaf, head of its central security services, told AFP.
A soldier was also wounded, the official said.
Also in Aden, troops shot dead a southern activist, according to a medic at the city’s Al-Naqib hospital and activists of the Southern Movement, which advocates the region’s autonomy or independence.
Aden residents said dozens of separatists took to the streets of the Khor Maksar, Mualla, Sheikh Osman and Dar Saad districts, blocking roads, burning tires and clashing with the army.
A security official told AFP that “supporters of the Southern Movement blocked roads and, when the army tried to intervene, gunmen among them deployed in buildings in these areas opened fire on troops, prompting the clashes.”
The official, who asked not to be named, said the protesters were supporters of a hard-line separatist faction led by exiled Ali Salem Al-Baid, that has so far refused to take part in a national dialogue set to take place on March 18.
The activists were protesting “under the banner of civil disobedience,” he said.
In the southeastern province of Hadramawt, where similar clashes took place on Saturday, police killed another protester, Southern Movement activist Nasser Bagzkoz told AFP.
“Police opened fire at a peaceful protest that took off in the town of Ghail Bawazir,” 30 km west of the provincial capital Mukala, killing protester Mohammed Buslama, he said. Residents said gunfire rang across Mukala as separatists blocked roads and burned tires.
The separatists also burnt down two offices belonging to the Al-Islah (Reform) Party, which backs President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, witnesses said. A security official in Hadramawt said the local central security services head, Col. Abdulwahab Al-Wali, escaped an assassination bid by separatists who opened fire at him. His three guards were wounded in the attempt.


Trio of favorites to vie for Iraq’s premiership

Updated 22 April 2018
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Trio of favorites to vie for Iraq’s premiership

  • Haddad said: “Abadi remains the single strongest contender but not strong enough to win anything close to a majority.”
  • The paramilitary chief ditched his civilian clothes in favor of military fatigues in 2014, to rally efforts against an ascendant Daesh.
BAGHDAD: An incumbent prime minister, his ousted predecessor and a paramilitary chief instrumental in defeating the Daesh group are the three favorites vying for Iraq’s premiership.
Since Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in the US-led invasion of 2003, the constitution has vested key powers in the prime minister, a post reserved for the majority Shiite population.
Under a system of checks and balances designed to avoid a return to dictatorship, the winner of the May 12 parliamentary elections will have to form alliances with other Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish lists to secure a majority. Two of the favorites topping the lists were among the architects of victory against Daesh, which in 2014 seized a third of Iraq’s territory in a lightning offensive.
Security crisis
The incumbent prime minister, 66 year-old Haider Abadi, took over the reins from Nuri Al-Maliki in September 2014 at the high watermark of the security crisis.
The fightback which allowed Abadi to declare Iraq’s victory over the jihadists in December, has silenced critics of his lack of military experience.
An engineering graduate and holder of a doctorate from the University of Manchester in Britain, Abadi is from the same Dawa party as his predecessor Maliki.
He owes his position to the support of the Marjaiya, the supreme council of Iraq’s Shiite clerics, and to an international consensus.
“He is acceptable to all foreign stakeholders, from the Iranians, to the Americans (and) the Saudis,” said Fanar Haddad, a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.
As the official head of Iraq’s military, Abadi has bolstered morale by drafting in foreign trainers, who have helped professionalize tens of thousands of soldiers.
Under his watch and backed by a US-led international coalition, the army has banished Daesh from all its urban strongholds in Iraq, leaving jihadists largely confined to areas close to the Syrian border.
The Iraqi military has also pushed back the Kurds in the north’s oil-rich Kirkuk province, bolstering Abadi’s status as frontrunner going into the election.
“He has a popular base which transcends confessional and ethnic lines. He offers a narrative as a statesman and he is not tarnished by corruption,” said Iraqi political scientist Essam Al-Fili.
Haddad said: “Abadi remains the single strongest contender but not strong enough to win anything close to a majority.”
His main contender is Hadi Al-Ameri — a leader of Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary network that played a pivotal role in defeating IS.
Ameri comes from Diyala province and is a statistics graduate from Baghdad University. He fled to Iran in 1980 after Saddam executed top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr Al-Sadr.
The 64-year old is widely viewed as Tehran’s favored candidate.
He fought alongside Iranian forces in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980 to 1988 as part of the Badr organization, and he only returned from exile after Saddam’s ouster. During Maliki’s 2010-2014 term as premier, Ameri was a lawmaker and then transport minister, but he was blocked in a bid to head the Interior Ministry by an American veto.
The paramilitary chief ditched his civilian clothes in favor of military fatigues in 2014, to rally efforts against an ascendant Daesh. At the battlefront, he operated alongside his old friend Qassem Soleimani, who runs the foreign operations wing of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
“I think Ameri will have a strong hand in the post-ballot negotiations but that government formation is likely to remain with Dawa and in all likelihood with Abadi,” said Haddad.
Rebuilding Basra
Beyond Ameri’s military credentials, his appeal has been bolstered by Hashed putting its bulldozers to work in rebuilding Basra and the capital’s Sadr City district, exposing the state’s deficiencies.
“With Dawa divided, I think Ameri sees himself as the joker in the pack, as a prime minister who can rebuild the civil state with the same success that he led the military,” said Fili.
The third candidate, 68-year-old Maliki, has been chomping at the bit since he was forced out in 2014, after serving eight years as prime minister.
While still a prominent Dawa leader, he was accused of marginalizing Sunnis and promoting corruption during his tenure.
“He is trying to focus his efforts on areas where the Dawa party is strong and is attempting to get closer to Shiite armed groups to stay in the spotlight,” said Fili.
For Haddad, the former premier’s chances are modest.
“Maliki’s fortunes have taken an irreversible hit. His second term is not remembered well by Iraqis in general.”
“The upper limit of his prospects might be to play second fiddle to Ameri,” Haddad said.