x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Yemen's president claims victory in terrorism fight

Opposition parties vow to ensure Yemen's president does not use the death of Al Awlaki to prolong his stay in power.

SANAA // The Yemeni government will view the killing of Anwar Al Awlaki, one of American's most wanted Al Qaeda terrorists, as a victory in its fight against terrorism and proof of its continuing partnership with the US.

But Yemeni opposition parties have vowed to ensure that the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, does not use the death of Al Awlaki - killed in a US drone attack in Yemen on Friday - to prolong his stay in power.

Analysts say the loss of a second Al Qaeda leader, following Osama bin Laden's death in May, could weaken Mr Saleh's position in the eyes of his foreign allies.

Ameen Al Himryani, an analyst and professor at the Qatar University, told Al Jazeera yesterday that "the regime is going to lose one of its scarecrows. Now if Al Qaeda is weakened in Yemen, what's he [Saleh] going to say to the West? Support me for what?"

Ali Jaradi, an editor at Ahale newspaper in Sanaa and a political analyst, said that Mr Saleh is expecting more US cooperation in exchange for Al Awlaki's death.

"It's a game between Saleh and the United States," he added. "Both help each other while the Yemeni people continue to die and suffer."

Leaders within Yemen's largest opposition, the Islah party, claim that Mr Saleh is closely linked to the terrorist group but is willing to sacrifice a number of its leaders to please the US.

The Yemeni government is now seeking to intensify its fight against Al Qaeda to shift the international pressure from regime change in Yemen.

Yesterday, a government airstrike on Razi hospital in Zinjibar killed four militants and injured two others.

The Abyan region is considered a stronghold for Islamic extremists in the country and the hospital has been controlled by suspected Al Qaeda militants.

Five soldiers were also killed in the town yesterday morning. Residents in Zinjibar said gunfire was heard throughout the day and that they were worried clashes would resume in the province after a quiet three weeks.

With the world focusing on the Al Alwaki's death and it impact on Al Qaeda, the UN envoy to Yemen continues to work on a political solution to keep the country from further bloodshed.

Jamal Ben Omar, visiting Yemen for the fifth time in three months, admitted Friday that he was preparing to leave the country on Friday night when the vice president, Abdurabu Hadi, convinced him to stay and continue to work on a power-transfer agreement.

Although Mr Saleh agreed to a proposal to transfer power drawn up by the Gulf Cooperation Council in May, he has yet to sign it.

"Saleh comes up with something new every day. He puts new conditions and burdens," said Mohammed Qahtan, the spokesperson for the opposition parties' coalition.

Mr Saleh has been playing the terror card for more than a decade, convincing western powers to finance his efforts against Al Qaeda in Yemen. He claims he is the only person with enough power to carry out America's requests.

The US can only support him to a point. Dr Ali Al Ghaffari, president of the Yemen Centre for Diplomatic Studies, believes that the US president, Barack Obama, made it clear in a speech on Friday that it was time for Mr Saleh to go.

"That's why the White House stressed that Awlaki's death will not change the US desire for change in Yemen," he added.

Ali Amrani, a spokesman for the Parliamentary Coalition for Change, the largest opposition bloc in Yemen's parliament, said that Mr Saleh would use the killing of Al Awlaki to shift the tone of the international community from an uprising against his regime to the fight against Al Qaeda.

"The world is doing nothing against Saleh though they know his crimes. People are dying while he continues to used tactics to stall time in power," said Mr Amrani.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae