SANA'A // The trial of two al Qa'eda suspects on charges of being part of an armed gang that killed nine people, including military and security officials, began yesterday at the state security court in Yemen's capital. Mansour Saleh Dalil, 18, and Mubarak Ali Hadi al Shabwani, 23, are being tried for "participating in an armed gang which carried out criminal actions against military and security officials and members of the armed forces", according to Rajeh Zaid, the prosecutor.
Mr Zaid alleged that the two defendants, who were arrested in December, killed one soldier during clashes with the army when they attacked a military vehicle carrying weapons and ammunition in July last year in Mareb province. They also held seven soldiers hostage and took all the arms supply and ammunitions, he said. After the attack, police tried to arrest the militants but during the operation two policemen and another civilian were killed. Five police officers were wounded.
The two were also accused of ambushing and killing three security officials and their two bodyguards in November last year while they were driving in the southern province of Hadramaut. The prosecutor said that Mr Dalil confessed during his interrogation that he joined al Qa'eda after meeting a militant called Naser Doha. The defendants denied charges and said they were scapegoats for the police, who were under pressure to make arrests in the cases.
Mr al Shabwani told the court: ""This is not true. Those are lies. They are blaming us because they failed to arrest anybody." The trial was adjourned until Saturday. In a statement published on the website of the ruling General People's Congress party on Sunday, Yemen's government said that al Qa'eda had killed 37 security, military and local officials over the past three years. On Monday, the defence ministry said it thwarted an al Qa'eda plot to attack installations in Mareb, which is home to some of the country's oil resources and a key pipeline that supplies crude to the coast.
Tension has been high in Mareb since Jabir al Shabwani, Mareb's deputy governor, was killed in May in an errant air strike targeting al Qa'eda suspects, prompting clashes between the government troops and his angry kinsmen. Saeed Obaid al Jamhi, an independent al Qa'eda analyst in Sana'a, said al Qa'eda was winning the battle for local allegiance in Mareb because of such mistakes in which civilians are targeted in error.
"Al Qa'eda is winning the battle not because it is strong but because of the mistakes of the security apparatuses," Mr al Jamhi said. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org