Security

Peace needed to halt extremism in Yemen: officials

By Faisal Darem in Sanaa

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Yemenis inspect the site of a suicide car bombing claimed by the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' on August 29th at an army recruitment centre in Aden. [Saleh al-Obeidi/AFP]

A peaceful resolution to Yemen's conflict is needed to stem the proliferation of extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), Yemeni officials tell Al-Mashareq.

In an August 31st briefing to the Security Council, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed warned that military escalation in Yemen will foster the spread of extremist groups, and called on all parties to resume peaceful negotiations.

AQAP and ISIL "continue to wreak havoc in many parts of Yemen", he said, pointing to an August 29th suicide attack in Aden claimed by ISIL that killed 71.

"The Yemeni army’s growing ability to confront extremist groups, evidenced by the recent detention of suspected AQAP militants in Zinjibar and Hadramaut, is encouraging," Ahmed said.

"However, the absence of the state in many parts of Yemen, in addition to the chaos created by war, will continue to facilitate the expansion of these terrorist groups, which represents a real threat to the region," he added.

Building upon successes

"Security and military agencies have achieved a series of successes against terrorist groups that are trying to undermine stability and security," said Hadramaut province undersecretary Mohammed al-Amoudi.

In April, the Yemeni army liberated al-Mukalla and a number of neighbouring areas that had been under al-Qaeda’s control for a year, he told Al-Mashareq.

Al-Amoudi attributed this success to the solidarity of Yemenis and their support for security efforts carried out under a unified command, led by 2nd military zone commander Maj. Gen. Faraj Salmeen.

These security successes enabled local authorities to resume reconstruction efforts and government services, including electricity and water, he said.

In an August 19th meeting with Aden governor Aidarus al-Zubaidi, Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher said efforts will be redoubled to enhance security and stability in Aden province and eliminate any remaining extremist elements.

He also pointed to the army's recent victory against al-Qaeda in neighbouring Abyan province.

In mid-August, Yemeni troops recaptured the provincial capital Zinjibar from al-Qaeda. Extremists fled into the mountains as the army entered, AFP reported.

"The security successes in Hadramaut, Abyan and Aden gave the local authorities a temporary opportunity to ramp up efforts towards reconstruction and resumption of services," said political analyst Adnan al-Humairi.

Ending the war and achieving a peaceful resolution to the conflict are critical for the permanent return of security and stability, he told Al-Mashareq.

"The continuation of the war in Yemen as a whole impacts and undermines stability in some of the liberated provinces, such as Hadramaut, Aden and Abyan which have witnessed suicide attacks in the past periods that left hundreds of victims," he added.

Preying on the poor

Yemen's ongoing war has exacerbated humanitarian and economic suffering and has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, al-Humairi said, which has in turn contributed to rising poverty levels.

According to a recent World Bank report, he added, more than 85% of the country's population now lives below the poverty line.

"The economic factor is exploited by terrorist groups to recruit new members," he said. "The deterioration of the security situation and division of state institutions in the conflict and ongoing war has provided terrorist groups with a golden opportunity to spread and attempt to expand from one area to another."

Regaining control of Hadramaut and Abyan from al-Qaeda forced its fighters and other extremist elements to flee to mountainous areas and neighbouring provinces, which could lead to a deterioration in the security situation, he added.

Al-Humairi called for "an end to the war and imposition of a peaceful solution by the international community [to enable] the state to unify its efforts to stop the proliferation of terrorist groups and eradicate them".

The need for peace

"The war environment is conducive for the spread of armed terrorist groups," political analyst Mohammed al-Ghabri told Al-Mashareq.

Close to a year and a half of war "has weakened the state’s security and military institutions, which are eroding with the passage of time and are in conflict with each other", he said.

The absence of the state and its institutions is the single most significant factor contributing to the spread of al-Qaeda and ISIL in Hadramaut, Abyan and Aden provinces, he added.

Al-Ghabri called on the UN and international parties sponsoring peace talks "to exert pressure through all possible means for a peaceful settlement in Yemen in order to stop the war and deterioration of economic and social conditions that create an environment conducive for the spread of terrorist groups".

A peaceful resolution to the conflict is needed "to preserve the unity of the people of Yemen and return state institutions to functioning once again, and thus reduce the impact of these groups on Yemen" and the region, he said.

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