Ye­men would-be model Aden Plagued by bombs, in­sta­bil­ity

It has be­come a sign of Ye­men’s woes

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

On a rocky hill over­look­ing the Ara­bian Sea in the city of Aden sits the palace of Ye­men’s in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized pres­i­dent. It’s one of the few safe places in the coun­try for him and his govern­ment, pro­tected by troops at the gates, ar­tillery and truck-mounted ma­chine guns in the sur­round­ing moun­tains and ships at sea.

The rest of the south­ern city re­mains un­sta­ble. Only a 10 minute drive from the palace, a sui­cide bomber struck days ago at the Sawla­ban mil­i­tary base, killing 52 sol­diers. It was the fourth time mil­i­tants have hit the base in the past six months. The last strike was only about a week ear­lier. All told, the at­tacks have killed more than 180 peo­ple.

The bomb­ings un­der­score how Pres­i­dent Abed Rabbo Man­sour Hadi and his main backer, the Saudi-led coali­tion, have failed to bring sta­bil­ity to the south­ern ter­ri­to­ries that his govern­ment con­trols in the civil war with Shi­ite Houthi rebels. Ye­men’s sec­ond largest city and once its com­mer­cial hub, Aden was in­tended to be a model of Hadi’s le­git­i­macy.

In­stead it has be­come a sign of Ye­men’s woes. Mul­ti­ple armed groups com­pete for in­flu­ence, chief among them a force known as the Se­cu­rity Belt, cre­ated and funded by the United Arab Emi­rates, Saudi Ara­bia and their al­lies. Com­manded mainly by Mus­lim ul­tra­con­ser­va­tives, it has been ac­cused by crit­ics of heavy­handed meth­ods, abus­ing op­po­nents and re­sist­ing Hadi’s author­ity. On Fri­day, the gov­er­nor of a neigh­bor­ing prov­ince said fighters from the groups fired on his car as he tried to visit Hadi’s palace for prayers.

‘We live in fear’

Aden was where Hadi’s govern­ment made its last stand af­ter the Houthis and al­lied troops loyal to a for­mer pres­i­dent over­ran the cap­i­tal Sanaa in 2014, took over much of the north and stormed south. Hadi was forced to flee the coun­try, and a mil­i­tary coali­tion led by Saudi Ara­bia launched its in­ter­ven­tion in March 2015, pre­vent­ing Aden from fall­ing. By July of that year, coali­tion-backed south­ern fighters pushed the rebels out of much of the south.

Hadi’s govern­ment hoped the restora­tion of Aden would mark the begin­ning of the end for the Houthis. But 18 months later, the rebels still con­trol Sanaa and much of the north, while se­cu­rity re­mains elu­sive in the south. Hadi moves back and forth be­tween Aden and the Saudi cap­i­tal Riyadh, most re­cently ar­riv­ing in the Ye­meni city in late Novem­ber.

Sui­cide bomb­ings and as­sas­si­na­tions, mostly by Al-Qaeda and the Is­lamic State group’s lo­cal af­fil­i­ate, reg­u­larly tar­get top mil­i­tary and govern­ment of­fi­cials, army re­cruits and se­nior Mus­lim cler­ics. Aden’s gov­er­nor and se­cu­rity chief were as­sas­si­nated last year. In Oc­to­ber 2015, the then­prime min­is­ter and his en­tire Cabi­net came un­der at­tack by sui­cide bombers at a five-star ho­tel in the heart of the city.

Aden res­i­dents have burned tires and blocked roads in protests against fuel short­ages, power cuts, de­layed salaries and a lack of ser­vices. Oth­ers hold demon­stra­tions de­mand­ing that south­ern Ye­men, which was in­de­pen­dent un­til 1990, se­cede again. “The gen­eral scene is foggy and we live in fear,” said Shakeb Rageh, a reporter at Aden’s ra­dio sta­tion. “The ex­plo­sions are ter­ri­fy­ing peo­ple here.”

Hadi re­lo­cated the Central Bank to Aden in Septem­ber, en­abling his govern­ment to pay salaries for the first time in nearly four months. But rem­nants of the army, po­lice, and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies un­der his In­te­rior Min­istry re­main poorly equipped and trained. Courts, judges, pros­e­cu­tors, and po­lice­men have not re­turned to work out of fear for their safety. The groups of lo­cal fighters known as Hi­rak, who fought off the Houthis, have frag­mented af­ter Hadi’s prom­ises to in­te­grate them into the army failed to ma­te­ri­al­ize.

The Se­cu­rity Belt force, cre­ated by the Saudiled coali­tion, presents it­self as the new pow­er­house to bring se­cu­rity in the ab­sence of state in­sti­tu­tions. The force is made up of some 15,000 south­ern fighters de­ployed across four prov­inces and mainly com­manded by hard-line Mus­lims known as Salafis.

Na­bil Al-Washoush, the Belt’s top com­man­der, told the As­so­ci­ated Press that his force re­ceives funds di­rectly from the Saudi-led coali­tion. Still, he said it an­swers to “our guardian pres­i­dent,” Hadi, and his In­te­rior Min­istry. He said even­tu­ally the force will be in­te­grated into the min­istry, but for now its mis­sion is to pro­vide “sup­port” to the se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus.

Our own peo­ple

The head of the force’s op­er­a­tions room, Hus­sein Saleh, said the frag­men­ta­tion of of­fi­cial se­cu­rity bod­ies cre­ated law­less­ness that made the Belt nec­es­sary. “The state in­sti­tu­tions are not back, there is no bud­get, and Is­lamic mil­i­tants are from within our own peo­ple, not out­siders,” he said. Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials close to the in­te­rior min­is­ter said the govern­ment has been try­ing to get all the armed groups un­der its com­mand but is fac­ing re­sis­tance from the Se­cu­rity Belt. The of­fi­cials spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to speak to the press. — AP

ADEN: In this Sun­day, Dec 18, 2016 file photo, sol­diers gather the site of a sui­cide bomb at a base in the south­ern city. — AP

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