Yemeni gunmen vacate Interior Ministry after protest

Updated 31 July 2012

Yemeni gunmen vacate Interior Ministry after protest

DUBAI: Yemeni tribesmen agreed yesterday to vacate the Interior Ministry after storming it the day before in a protest for jobs, an official said — an incident that highlighted the ongoing turmoil in a country where Al-Qaeda militancy has alarmed world powers.
In another indication of instability in the Arabian Peninsula country, an Italian embassy security officer was kidnapped on Sunday. The Yemeni government said the hunt for the abductors had begun.
The country is struggling to establish order following the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in February after a year of Arab Spring protests against his rule.
An Interior Ministry source said it had persuaded the 100 tribesmen, seen as loyal to the former president Saleh, to vacate the Interior Ministry in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. The tribesmen were demanding to be enlisted in the police force.
“The president formed a committee to negotiate,” the source said, referring to the country’s leader Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
“They were persuaded to end the occupation in return for a promise to respond to their demands.” The Italian security officer was kidnapped near his country’s embassy in Sanaa. A spokesman for the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome said the man was a member of the country’s Carabinieri military police.
In a phone call with his Italian counterpart, Giulio Terzi, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr Al-Qirbi said the hunt for the abductors had begun, state news agency Saba said late on Sunday. It said nothing about identity of the kidnappers.
The abduction followed the kidnapping in March of the Saudi deputy consul in Yemen’s port city of Aden, Abdallah Al-Khalidi, by Al-Qaeda-linked militants. The kidnappers have demanded the release of women detainees held in Saudi prisons.
During the uprising that toppled Saleh, militants associated with Al-Qaeda strengthened their position in areas of south and east Yemen, placing further tests on the central government control in a country where tribalism and regionalism run strong.
Tribesmen often kidnap foreigners and bomb oil and gas pipelines as a way to press demands on authorities.
Also on Monday, Yemen delivered its first oil shipment from the Maarib pipeline to its Aden refinery after a nine-month halt because of tribal attacks that left Yemen relying on imports and Saudi fuel donations, a refinery official told Reuters.
Yemen’s location next to leading oil exporter Saudi Arabia and astride key world shipping routes has heightened regional and Western concern over the country’s security situation.
The disorder has alarmed the United States, a backer of Saleh who has sought to ensure that his successor makes fighting Al-Qaeda his priority. Yemen now ranks alongside Pakistan and Afghanistan for US policymakers concerned with the spread of Al-Qaeda networks.
Yemen’s army has taken back some towns from militants, who struck back with suicide bombings in Sanaa, while Washington has stepped up a campaign of assassinations using manless drones operated by the CIA.


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 49 min 6 sec ago

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.