Yemen radical party members held, ratcheting up tensions

Pro-government fighters are seen outside a military camp near airport in the southern Yemeni city of Aden in this file photo. Security forces have arrested 10 members of an Islamist partner in the internationally-recognized government, increasing tensions, the Islah party said on Wednesday. (AFP file photo)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Yemen radical party members held, ratcheting up tensions

ADEN: Security forces in the southern Yemeni city of Aden arrested 10 members of a radical partner in the internationally recognized government, the Islah party said on Wednesday.
Aden is dominated by local forces backed by the UAE, a key member of the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to restore President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power but is hostile toward hard-liners.
The arrests could raise tension within the coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi movement and forces loyal to deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh who seized much of northern Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.
Islah said security forces raided the home of its No. 2 man in Aden, Mohammed Abdel-Malek, and arrested him, along with a member of the party’s local Shoura Council as well as a local militia commander.
Security forces also closed down the party’s office in Al-Qaloua district of Aden, Islah said in a statement.
A security source in Aden confirmed four people were arrested and said the move was related to the assassination of a Salafi imam in Aden on Tuesday by a bomb planted in his car.
While both in the radical camp, Salafis and Islah are at odds as some of the former back a secession of south Yemen while the latter wants the Arabian Peninsula state to remain intact.
It was unclear if the arrested Islah members had been formally charged.
“(Islah) directs a call to public opinion, the government and the coalition demanding they shoulder their responsibility to swiftly release brother Abdel-Malek and his colleagues and to stop these arbitrary measures,” Islah’s statement said.
With thousands of fighters deployed on battlefronts against the Houthis, Islah has been an important ally of Hadi and the Saudi-led coalition trying to reinstate his government.
But Islah, seen as linked with the Muslim Brotherhood, has come under pressure since a rift erupted between Qatar and the Anti-Terror Quartet — comprising the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — in June over allegations Qatar backs radical militants. Qatar denies this.
Since the coalition intervened in Yemen, Islah has tried to distance itself from the Brotherhood in an effort to ease Gulf rulers’ anxiety about its radical ideology.
The Brotherhood denies accusations from conservative Arab governments of involvement in terrorism, saying it seeks change only by peaceful means.


Russia says ‘misled’ by Israel in plane downing over Syria

Updated 24 September 2018
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Russia says ‘misled’ by Israel in plane downing over Syria

MOSCOW: Russia’s military Sunday blamed “misleading” information from the Israeli airforce for the downing of one of its planes in Syria last week, and denounced the “adventurism” of Israeli pilots.
Israel strongly disputed the assertion and vowed it will continue to act against Iranian targets in neighboring Syria.
A Syrian air defense missile downed the Russian Ilyushin Il-20 military plane on September 17, killing all 15 soldiers aboard and threatening to damage relations between Russia and Israel, which three years ago set up a hotline to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to seek to move past the incident in spite of strong statements from the Russian military.
On Sunday, military spokesman Igor Konashenkov presented the results of an investigation.
Moscow has accused Israel’s fighter pilots of using the bigger Ilyushin as cover, causing Syria’s Soviet-era S-200 air defense system to interpret the Russian plane as a target.
Israel denied this version of events and its air force commander flew to Moscow following the incident, which Putin called the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”
It was the deadliest known case of friendly fire between Syria and key backer Russia since Moscow’s game-changing 2015 military intervention.
Konashenkov said the Russian military received a call from Israeli command at 1839 GMT on the day of the incident to warn that Israel would be striking “north of Syria,” where the Il-20 surveillance aircraft was monitoring the Idlib de-escalation zone.
Russia ordered its plane back to base. Then, “one minute” after Israel’s call, its F-16 planes struck targets in Latakia in western Syria, he said.
“The misleading (information) by the Israeli officer regarding the location of the strikes made it impossible to guide the Il-20 to a safe location,” said Konashenkov.
As the Il-20 was landing near Latakia, one of the F-16 planes “began maneuvers” at 1859 GMT “getting closer to the Il-20,” which was interpreted as a repeat attack by the Syrian air defense and resulted in it being shot down, he said.
“Monitoring the Il-20, the Israeli fighters used it as cover from the anti-aircraft missiles” and continued to patrol the area long after the Russian plane was shot down, he said.
The Israeli pilots’ actions “either speak of their unprofessionalism or criminal negligence at the very least,” Konashenkov said, reiterating the Israeli airforce was fully responsible for the downing of the plane.
The “adventurism” of the Israeli military could have endangered civilian planes which use the same airspace to land at the nearby Hmeimim aerodrome, the officer said.
“This is a very ungrateful response to everything Russia has done for Israel.”
Israel’s military said in a statement its jets “did not hide behind any aircraft and that the Israeli aircraft were in Israeli airspace at the time of the downing of the Russian plane.”
It again offered condolences to Russia.
Israel says it was targeting a Syrian military facility where weapons manufacturing systems were “about to be transferred on behalf of Iran” to Lebanese group Hezbollah.
It has pledged to stop Iran, its main enemy, from entrenching itself militarily in the neighboring country and has carried out dozens of attacks on Iranian targets there.
Iranian-backed Hezbollah is also an enemy of Israel, which has carried out strikes in Syria to stop what it says are advanced arms deliveries to the group.