Locust invasion in Yemen stokes food insecurity fears

A Yemeni tries to catch locusts on the rooftop of his house as they swarm several parts of the country bringing in devastations and destruction of major seasonal crops. (AFP)
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Updated 13 July 2020

Locust invasion in Yemen stokes food insecurity fears

  • Billions of locusts invaded farms, cities and villages, devouring seasonal crops

AL-MUKALLA: Locust swarms have swept over farms in central, southern and eastern parts of Yemen, ravaging crops and stoking fears of food insecurity.

Residents and farmers in the provinces of Marib, Hadramout, Mahra and Abyan said that billions of locusts had invaded farms, cities and villages, devouring important seasonal crops such as dates and causing heavy losses.
“This is like a storm that razes anything it encounters,” Hussein Ben Al-Sheikh Abu Baker, an agricultural official from Hadramout’s Sah district, told Arab News on Sunday.
Images and videos posted on social media showed layers of creeping locusts laying waste to lemon farms in Marb, dates and alfalfa farms in Hadramout and flying swarms plunging cities into darkness. “The locusts have eaten all kinds of green trees, including the sesban tree. The losses are huge,” Abu Baker added.
Heavy rains and flash floods have hit several Yemeni provinces over the last couple of months, creating fruitful conditions for locusts to reproduce. Farmers complained that locusts had wiped out entire seasonal crops that are grown after rains.
Abu Baker said that he visited several affected farms in Hadramout, where farmers told him that if the government would not compensate them for the damage that it should at least get ready for a second potential locust wave that might occur in 10 days.
“The current swarms laid eggs that are expected to hatch in 10 days. We are bracing for the second wave of the locusts.”  
Last year, the UN said that the war in Yemen had disrupted vital monitoring and control efforts and several waves of locusts to hit neighboring countries had originated from Yemen.

This is like a storm that razes anything it encounters.

Hussein Ben Al-Sheikh Abu Baker, a Yemeni agricultural official

Yemeni government officials, responsible for battling the spread of locusts, have complained that fighting and a lack of funding have obstructed vital operations for combating the insects.
Ashor Al-Zubairi, the director of the Locust Control Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture in Hadramout’s Seiyun city, said that the ministry was carrying out a combat operation funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization in Hadramout and Mahra, but complained that the operation might fall short of its target due to a lack of funding and equipment.
“The spraying campaign will end in a week which is not enough to cover the entire plagued areas,” Al-Zubairi told Arab News. “We suggested increasing the number of spraying equipment or extending the campaign.”
He said that a large number of villagers had lost their source of income after the locusts ate crops and sheep food, predicting that the outbreak would likely last for at least two weeks if urgent control operations were not intensified and fighting continued. “Combating teams could not cross into some areas in Marib due to fighting.”
The widespread locust invasion comes as the World Food Programme (WFP) on July 10 sent an appeal for urgent funds for its programs in Yemen, warning that people would face starvation otherwise.
“There are 10 million people who are facing (an) acute food shortage, and we are ringing the alarm bell for these people, because their situation is deteriorating because of escalation and because of the lockdowns, the constraints and the social-economic impact of the coronavirus,” WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva.


Terror groups continue to recruit US citizens online

Updated 2 min 10 sec ago

Terror groups continue to recruit US citizens online

  • In the past year, at least four US citizens have been convicted of funding terrorism or volunteering to commit terrorist acts overseas
  • US Attorney Audrey Strauss: Clark pledged allegiance to Daesh and posted calls for attacks on the public and institutions in New York

CHICAGO: Terrorist groups in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq are successfully using online methods to recruit American citizens, according to officials from the US Justice Department and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

In the past year, at least four US citizens have been convicted of funding terrorism or volunteering to commit terrorist acts overseas. On Aug. 11, 30-year-old Jesus Wilfredo Encarnacion was sentenced to 15 years in prison after attempting to join the Lashkar e-Tayyiba terrorist group in Pakistan.

Zachary Clark, 41, also known as “Umar Kabir,” pleaded guilty on Aug. 10 to providing material support to Daesh. He faces up to 20 years behind bars. Delowar Mohammed Hossain, 33, was arrested in July 2019 at JFK International Airport, as he attempted to travel to Afghanistan to support Taliban efforts to kill US soldiers.

Samantha Marie Elhassani, 34, traveled to Syria and Hong Kong with $30,000 to fund a terrorist attack planned by her husband and brother. She was charged in August 2018 and pleaded guilty in November last year. Encarnacion, Clark and Hossain lived in New York and Elhassani is from Indiana.

“Unfortunately, individuals continue to attempt to travel to foreign countries to support terrorist organizations,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers. “Encarnacion’s sentence reflects the seriousness with which the justice system takes these efforts.

“The National Security Division remains committed to identifying and holding accountable those who seek to join and support designated foreign terrorist organizations.”

Encarnacion planned to travel abroad to join and train with Lashkar e-Tayyiba, an organization known for targeting civilians, and carry out shootings, bombings and beheadings in its name, said Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Clark “pledged allegiance to Daesh and posted calls for attacks on the public and institutions in New York on encrypted pro-Daesh chatrooms,” Strauss said. He also “posted detailed instructions for carrying out those violent acts,” she added, distributing manuals with titles such as “Knife Attacks” and “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom” in encrypted chat rooms set up to attract Daesh recruits.

“Clark’s efforts to incite deadly violence on behalf of (Daesh) have been silenced, and he now awaits sentencing for his crimes,” Strauss said. He credited for the arrest the efforts of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes FBI agents and detectives from the New York Police Department.

William F. Sweeney Jr., the assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said that Hossain’s “deadly plans” were also scuppered by task force.

“The lure of radical ideologies comes from many sources and just because the Taliban may seem like an old and out-of-vogue extremist group, it shouldn’t be underestimated,” he added.

Elhassani, a mother of two young children, became involved with Daesh when her husband and his brother decided to travel to Syria to join the group. Between November 2014 and April 2015 she made multiple trips to Hong Kong carrying more than $30,000 in cash and gold, which was deposited in a safe deposit box there.

Elhassani went to great lengths to assist her husband and brother-in-law, officials said, including melting down gold and making it look like jewelry. She was arrested in Syria by the Syrian Democratic Force and handed over to US law enforcement.