Yemen

Criminal Gangs Terrorize Taiz City

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Emad Al-Saqaf Published:12-01-2012

TAIZ, Jan. 11 – Even with the lessening of Taiz’s military presence in accordance with the Gulf Initiative, a spread of weapons coupled with a shortage of police personnel has led to a recent increase in crime.

A number of crimes have been reported since the beginning of the year, with reports of armed men breaking into homes, cars being hijacked and money extorted from citizens.

The latest reported incident was the kidnapping of a Yemeni businessman as he stood outside a sports club west of Taiz on Sunday. Witnesses recorded the kidnappers’ vehicle’s number (7/11592), which was then reported to the police.

The armed group attacked Arif Abdu Ahmed, who works as regional manager for Abduljaleel Radman Business Group, at 11p.m. The armed men took all his possessions and held him for five hours before releasing him unharmed.

In response to the kidnapping, the Taiz Chamber of Commerce issued a statement calling on the vice president and prime minister to quickly take measures to arrest the culprits and put an end to such crimes in the city.

Similarly, a member of the National Alliance for Taiz leaders said that the police have become useless in the face of a growing number of armed gangs loitering in the city and terrorizing people.

He said that if any force was used against the culprits by any side, the opposition and youth in the revolution squares would condemn the use of force and claim that it was a violation of human rights, thereby severely limiting the police’s ability to enforce the law.

“During the uprising, when the opposition took up arms to defend its cause against the regime, they instilled a violent culture in the city. Now we are paying the price for this, and the unemployed and criminals are exploiting the situation for personal gain,” he said.

However, incidents are on the rise, including the targeting of citizens who are not related to any political party. Last week, locals in Taiz explained how armed men stopped an old man in his car in front of a police station. Facing the threat of being shot, the man surrendered the one million rials the armed men had just seen him take out of a bank.

“The soldiers in the police station did nothing while the men robbed the old man. It was sad. We now fear for our lives and know that we can’t rely on the police anymore,” said Suhaib Yousif, who witnessed the incident.

Another incident was reported earlier this month when a physician, Dr. Waheeb Saeed, was leaving his clinic at nine in at night when a group of armed men stopped him in his car and took everything in his possession.

“I had very important documents and around YR 70,000. I begged them to take the money and leave the documents, but they would not. I am still in shock at how unsafe our city has become and since then, I leave my office in the evening so I don’t have to face such a situation again,” said Dr. Saeed.

The problem according to locals is that these incidents take place in public in broad daylight, and sometimes in the presence of security or police.

An officer at the 26 September Police Station in Taiz admits that they know of an armed gang at Tahrir Square that hijacks cars from the main street under gunpoint and who don’t return the vehicles unless money is paid.

“They even monitor our movements; when a military vehicle approaches, they seize it by force. They have Kalashnikovs and machine guns and derive their strength through following influential figures and sheikhs,” he said.

The military committee responsible for demilitarizing the city and instituting peace called on citizens not to carry weapons in the streets and to help security and police forces do their job.

“We are working on this issue and will take strict measures against anyone who thinks they are above the law or who tries to harm this country,” he said.