North-South Divide Widens in Yemen

Article Summary
The National Dialogue Conference, which is to facilitate the transition of power in Yemen, is rapidly approaching, but separatist groups in the country’s south are stepping up resistance operations. Mohammad al-Ghobari reports on the political divisions widening across Yemen, as well as this week's attack on a crucial pipeline by gunmen believed to be affiliated with Al Qaeda.

In the run-up to the National Dialogue Conference, set to be held next year in Yemen, separatist groups in the South and al-Qaeda have stepped up their confrontation with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. This comes in conjunction with continued resistance by supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to the completion of the process of a peaceful transition of power.

The preparatory committee for the National Dialogue Conference has released a final list of participants, which also includes southern factions. With this announcement, Ahmed al-Hassani, commander of the [Yemeni] Naval Forces and former ambassador, returned to the city of Aden, defying Hadi’s authority.

Hassani had been arrested by the intelligence services at a residential apartment and was detained for three days before being released. However, Hassani has reiterated that it is his duty to work with former Vice President Ali Salim el-Beidh for the “independence” of the South. 

He visited wounded members of the Southern Mobility Movement [SMM] at hospitals, accompanied by a media team and a reporter for Aden Live channel, which is owned by Beidh and airs from the Lebanese capital Beirut with the support of Hezbollah. He made sure to send Beidh’s greetings to the wounded, acting like an official in a state that is independent of the Yemeni president’s authority.

Visits and statements

Hassani, who participated alongside Saleh in the war against the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) in 1994 as commander of the naval forces, was quoted as saying: “The political leadership of the people of the South, represented by President Ali Salem al-Beidh and the leaders on the ground, will not hesitate to provide the necessary [help] to the wounded.”

These developments coincide with Beidh’s announcement of his intention to return to Aden “soon,” amid reports that there is a general inclination to escalate the situation in the South before the launch of the National Dialogue Conference. The conference is boycotted by the group led by Beidh, which is accused of receiving financial and media support from Iran.

Political sources have warned that separatist groups may resort to armed action if they feel that the National Dialogue Conference, which is supported by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and permanent members of the UN Security Council, will endorse the moderate forces in the South, led by former Presidents Ali Nasser Mohammad and Haidar al-Attas, who both support the establishment of a federal state .

Attacks by al-Qaeda

In the meantime, al-Qaeda has stepped up its vengeful attacks against Hadi in the South. A day after an attack targeting an intelligence building in the city of Aden killed 19 security guards and employees, al-Qaeda militants attacked the same building again. They engaged in armed clashes in the streets of Aden, in a new attempt to storm the building and release detainees held in its prisons.

After attacking the southern gate of the Political Security Organization (PSO) building located next to the Aden TV building, the [al-Qaeda] militants exchanged fire with security forces and later fled. Two explosions were heard during the clashes, which are believed to have been bombs used by the militants in the attack.

Saleh’s remnants

Amid the heightened dispute between Hadi and Beidh, the official website of the General People's Congress (GPC), headed by Saleh, slammed the [current] Yemeni President, and reminded him that he “was involved” in the clashes that took place within the ranks of the YSP in the South in 1986.

After a wave of criticism over the report published on the official website of the GPC, in which Hadi holds the position of secretary general, the website published a statement citing a source close to the GPC, represented by its president and founding leader. The statement said that “there is no disagreement between Saleh and Hadi, as is being promoted by some websites with the aim of sowing division and for political blackmail.”

Gas pipeline

Gunmen believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda blew up a gas pipeline in the area of al-Zahira in the Jardan District of the Shabwah Governorate [on August 21]. Huge flames could be seen rising from afar. According to experts, this attack could cause a long cessation of gas production and flow from the operations area in Safer in the Maarib Governorate to Balhaf due to the extent of the damages this attacked caused the Shabwah-Bayan pipeline.

Denial of shooting

A presidential source denied that the convoy of Hadi was shot at, or that he was subjected to an assassination attempt. Yemeni websites Islam Times and carried a denial by the same presidential source of reports that have been recently circulated by news websites quoting Mareb Press, claiming that Hadi’s convoy came under fire while he was on his way to the Presidential Palace to hold the Eid al-Fitr holiday prayers. The source said that "what is being said by some media outlets is not true.”

Found in: al-qaeda organization, yemeni socialist party (ysp), yemen, southern mobility movement (smm), president ali abdullah saleh, president abed rabbo mansour hadi, national dialogue conference, general people's congress (gpc), ali salem al-bid, ahmed al-hassani

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