Terrorist group promises reinforcements to Yemen

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SANA'A, JAN. 3 - The promise of sending reinforcements to Yemen, made by Somalia's rebel group (Al-Shabaab), has alarmed the Yemeni public, government, the Somali community, and foreign embassies in Yemen.

Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansour, a senior official in Al-Shabab, announced on Friday at a ceremony for hundreds of newly trained fighters in northern Mogadishu, to send fighters to aid Al-Qaeda militants currently battling Yemeni government forces.

"We tell our Muslim brothers in Yemen that we will cross the water between us and reach your place to assist you fight the enemy of Allah," he said.

"Today you see what is happening in Yemen, the enemy of Allah is destroying your Muslim brothers," he said

"I call upon the young men in Arab lands to join the fight there." He added.

This call has increased concern among Yemenis as well as Somalis in Yemen, which is the only country in the Arabian peninsula giving asylum to Somalis, who have fled a civil war that has raged in that country since 1991.

''Yemen should stop receiving more Somalis immigrants, and reconsider the asylum decisions that have already been granted,'' said Mahmoud Alsami , a Yemeni citizen.

''These refugees are an economic burden on Yemen, and now they are a security threat," he added.

Yet, many human right activists in Yemen believe that Yemen should commit to its obligation of receiving refugees, as Yemen has ratified Refugees convention in 1951. However they insisted on the importance of increased security measures to avoid any terrorists actions.

''Yemen should take accurate measures, like recruiting more coast guards, to ensure the security of its vast shoreline, to be able to control the constant exodus of African immigrants,'' said Dr.Sarah Al-Arasi, professor of international law in Sana'a university

Meanwhile, the Yemeni government commented on Saturday that it will not tolerate foreign terrorists on its soil.

''Yemen will not accept on its territory any presence by [foreign] terrorist elements and will be on guard against anyone who tries to act against its security and stability,'' Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi, Yemen's foreign minister, stated to the official Saba news agency.

"It would have been wiser for those who promise to export terrorism to work towards stability in their own war-ridden state." Al-Qirbi comment .

Al Shabaab, which means "Youth" in Arabic, is an al Qaeda-inspired militant group that has taken control of large areas of south and central Somalia

Al Shabaab's hardline militia was part of the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) movement that pushed U.S.-backed warlords out of Mogadishu in June 2006 and ruled for six months before Somali and Ethiopian forces ousted them.

Discrimination Concerns

Though no incident has officially been recorded yet against Somalis since the announcement of the Al-Shabab, however, the Somalis community has expressed their fears of being subjected to any discrimination from Yemenis or the government. ''Yemeni people and the Yemeni government have received us generously . However and after this announcement, we are really anxious of its negative impact,'' said Mohammed Sadat, coordinator at the Somalis community in Yemen

He criticized the Al-Shabab group saying that their announcement expose all Somalis over the world to risk, as they will be stereotyped as terrorists.

''Since 1991, about two millions and five hundred thousands Somalis have arrived in Yemen, thirty present of which have sneaked into Gulf Countries which deported them to back to Somalia. Maybe those returnees were involved with Al-Shabab,'' he added.

Difficulties such as renting houses, getting jobs, and harassment on the streets are all expected to increase for Somalis, said Mohamed Shaikh Isahak, social affairs official in the Somali community in Yemen.

''We were concerned when the Yemeni government arrested Somalis who had links to Al-Houthies( the rebels northern Yemen). With the announcement from Al-Shabab, the situation of Somali refuges in Yemen could worsen,'' he said.

The risk coming from the sea

Following the vow of Al-ShababThe Yemeni Coast Gourd has stressed security measures and stepped up its patrols along Yemeni coasts on the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Arab Sea, said the General Director of the Yemeni Coast Guard Abdullah Al-Jlal. He pointed out that the guards are now searching all boats coming from African countries, and investigate the ID cards of the arrivals and scanning the sea using helicopters.

Ever since the collapse of their government in 1991, Somalis have been arriving at the port of Bossaso, to buy passage in small open fishing boats to Yemen, where they are given automatic political asylum.

The majority land safely on the beach at Bir Ali in Yemen, but hundreds of survivors report being forced overboard in deep water far from shore by unscrupulous traffickers.

"No one knows for sure how many Somalis have made their way to Yemen since the collapse of their government in 1991,and immigrants can always sneak into inner Yemeni regions, or neighboring countries, as only those who are found on the beach as they arrived are registered by the UN agency for Refugees, while the registration at by Yemeni authorities is optional," noted Dr. Ali Al-Awaj, researcher in refugees affairs in Yemen.

Support to fight terrorism

Despite increased security procedures by Yemeni officials to avoid terrorist actions, the US and British embassies closed on Sunday in the face of Al-Qaeda threats . The White House counterterrorism chief said the American Embassy, which was attacked twice in 2008, was shut because of an "active" al-Qaeda threat. A statement on the embassy's website announcing the closure cited "ongoing threats" from the terror group and did not say how long it would remain closed. In London, Britain's Foreign Office said its embassy was closed for security reasons. It said officials would decide later whether to reopen it tomorrow.

However both countries announced an increase in aid to the government to fight Al-Qaeda. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for a High level international conference to be held on the 28 January to address the "failing state" of Yemen and the "strengthening" of intelligence in the area.

Britain announced that Washington and London will back a new counterterrorism police unit in Yemen.

Yemen has come under increasing scrutiny since Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group in Yemen that combines Al-Qaeda wings from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, claimed responsibility for the failed attempt on the 25th of December to bomb a US plane, on which 300 passengers travelled.

The group said it was avenging what it described as U.S. attacks against its leaders and operatives in Yemen during the recent attacks in Shabwa and Abyan governorates.