Arab coalition deploys monitors to oversee Yemen cease-fire with separatists

Fighters loyal to Yemen's separatist Southern Transitional Council in Abyan province last month. (AFP/File)
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Updated 24 June 2020

Arab coalition deploys monitors to oversee Yemen cease-fire with separatists

  • Talks held to cease hostilities in Abyan to end 2 years of tension

AL-MUKALLA: Fighting between government forces and separatists in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan largely subsided on Wednesday as the Saudi-led coalition deployed military officers to monitor a truce, local army officers and residents said.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) on Monday agreed to stop hostilities in Abyan and begin talks in Saudi Arabia to end more than two years of tension.
On Wednesday afternoon, the truce came into force as Saudi officers visited the frontlines and met with government and separatist military commanders.
“The Saudi military committee was divided into two groups. Seven officers met us and told us they came to monitor the truce. Another group of officers met the council’s forces,” a Yemeni government officer told Arab News.
Images posted on social media showed separatist military commanders posing with the Saudi monitors as their leaders expressed their willingness to comply with the committee.
Government officers in Abyan say roads will be reopened to allow stranded travelers to reach their destinations. 
Dozens of fighters have been killed in fierce fighting over the last several days as both sides claimed territorial gains.

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Images posted on social media showed separatist military commanders posing with the Saudi monitors as their leaders expressed their willingness to comply with the committee.

Tensions have escalated over the last several months since the separatists declared self-rule in Aden and the other southern provinces.
This prompted Yemen’s government in May to launch a military offensive in Abyan aimed at ousting the separatists from Aden.
The government and STC leaders are due to engage in talks in Saudi Arabia to discuss implementing the Riyadh Agreement and other thorny issues.
Local health officials recently told Arab News that the fighting in Abyan had disrupted the distribution of medical supplies, including coronavirus testing kits, and prevented doctors from visiting hospitals in the contested areas.
Meanwhile, fighting intensified on Wednesday in the central province of Al-Bayda, where Iran-backed Houthis attacked government forces in an attempt to recapture strategic locations.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry said army troops and allied tribesmen foiled the attack and killed dozens of Houthi fighters.
Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition carried out 10 airstrikes, destroying Houthi military reinforcements and enabling Yemeni government forces to push back the Houthis.
The coalition’s military operations in Yemen have tilted the balance of the war in favor of the government and allied forces.
Meanwhile, Yemen reported 25 additional coronavirus cases, including four deaths. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in government-controlled areas to 992, including 261 fatalities and 356 recoveries, the national coronavirus committee said on Tuesday.


New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

Updated 3 min 31 sec ago

New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

  • CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed

NEW YORK: The man widely believed to be the new leader of Daesh was once an informant for the US, according to a new report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), a research body at the US military academy of West Point in New York.

“Stepping Out from the Shadows: The Interrogation of the Islamic State’s Future Caliph” is based on Tactical Interrogation Reports (TIRs) — the paper trail the US military creates when enemy fighters are detained and interrogated — from Al-Mawla’s time in captivity in the late 2000s.

Before his release in 2009, Al-Mawla named 88 extremists involved in terrorist activities, and the information he divulged during his interrogations led US forces in the region to successfully capture or kill dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters, the report claims.

The CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed in a US air raid in Syria in October 2019.

Although Daesh announced that a man called Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi was Baghdadi’s successor, US officials have also stated that Al-Qurashi’s true identity is actually Al-Mawla — also known as Hajj Abdullah.

Before joining Daesh, Al-Mawla is believed to have been the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda.

While details about the operation resulting in his capture are scarce, the TRIs reveal that he was captured on January 6, 2008.

The following day, US Central Command announced the capture of a wanted individual who “previously served as a judge of an illegal court system involved in ordering and approving abductions and executions.”

In his interrogations, Al-Mawla offered up details of terrorist plots to his interrogators, while minimizing his own involvement. He identified many jihadists by name and offered descriptions of their roles in the terrorist organization and details of their involvement in attacks on US-led coalition forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Al-Mawla — a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army and once Baghdadi’s speechwriter — emerges from the TIRs as a mysterious personality with a vague past, whose ethnicity could not be determined with certainty. The statements in the reports are rife with contradictory elements and open to a wide range of interpretations. As the authors point out in their introduction: “It is incredibly difficult to ascertain whether what Al-Mawla divulges regarding himself or ISI (the forerunner of Daesh) as an organization is true.”

Details of the specific demographics of Al Mawla’s birthplace of Al-Muhalabiyyah in Iraq’s Tal Afar district are sketchy, but it is generally accepted to have a predominantly Turkmen population. The authors of the report point out that some sources have suggested “this could pose legitimacy problems for him because (Daesh) mostly has Arabs in its senior leadership echelons,” but add that at least two other senior members of the group were reported to have been Turkmen.

Al-Mawla also claimed to have avoided pledging allegiance to ISI because he was a Sufi. The report’s authors cast doubt on that claim, given his quick rise to prominence in the terrorist group and the fact that ISI and Daesh branded Sufism as heresy.

But the authors do believe the TRIs give some valuable insights into Al-Mawla’s personality.

“The fact that he detailed activities and gave testimony against (fellow jihadists) suggests a willingness to offer up fellow members of the group to suit his own ends,” they wrote. “The amount of detail and seeming willingness to share information about fellow organization members suggests either a degree of nonchalance, strategic calculation, or resignation on the part of Al-Mawla regarding operational security.

“He appears to have named individuals in some capacity across all levels of the organization, while describing some individuals in some detail,” they continued.

The US Department of Justice has offered a $10million reward for information about Al-Mawla’s identification or location.