From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Jan 12 2010 - 17:44:26 EST
Yemen offered to free al-Qaeda leaders
Yemen offered to free all al-Qaeda militants held in its prisons last year
if the group agreed to leave the country, a former senior government
official has claimed.
By Adrian Blomfield in Zinjibar
Published: 6:25PM GMT 12 Jan 2010
Although the government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country's president,
released 130 of its fighters as a goodwill gesture, al-Qaeda's leadership in
Yemen rejected the deal, according to Tariq al-Fahdli, who has since joined
an outlawed group fighting for the secession of the south.
"Because we were previously with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Saleh asked us to
act as a broker," Mr Fahdli said, adding that the president had offered to
pay the group money to move to Somalia, Saudi Arabia or another country.
Mr Fahdli was recruited along with fellow veterans who fought Soviet
occupation in Afghanistan to form a militia against communists in south
Yemen during a 1994 civil war.
He said he defected last year to a new movement fighting for southern
independence after Mr Saleh asked him to kill the secessionists' four
Yemeni officials portray Mr Fahdli as one of country's most dangerous men,
saying he is intent on forging an alliance between the secessionists and
al-Qaeda. Although he says he met bin Laden twice, Mr Fahdli denied the
Revealing the complex nature of political relationships in Yemen, Ahmed
al-Misri, the governor of Abyan province, said he was given a warrant to
arrest Mr Fahdli but as he was approaching his home the order was
countermanded by the country's deputy prime minister, Rashad al-Alimi.
Mr Alimi last week described the increasingly powerful secessionists as
"bandits" and "outlaws".
Mr Fahdli lives openly in a bullet-riddled house in Zinjibar, Abyan's
capital. At least 12 people were killed in a clash between his supporters
and security forces in July.
Analysts say anti-government sentiment in the south could spark a new civil
war that would severely complicate efforts to quash al-Qaeda, which has a
strong presence in the region.
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