SANAA(AFP) — Yemen’s chief of central security warned the country’s tribes on Sunday that if they harbour suspected members of Al-Qaeda they could face dire consequences.
General Yahya Saleh, nephew of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, said “we broadly tell citizens in the concerned regions that they should not accept the presence of Al-Qaeda elements amongst them.
“If the tribes accept the presence of Al-Qaeda despite the warnings that we put out on television, newspapers and radio, then they are doing it with the full knowledge of the facts. They have been warned,” he told AFP.
Saleh did not say what consequences might result, but on December 17 and 24, Yemeni planes carried out raids against suspected sites of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Not only were 60 suspected militants killed but also dozens of tribal civilians living in the vicinity.
“If some tribes aid or protect Al-Qaeda, it is usually because some members of the tribe are part of the network, or because a terrorist has married a woman from the tribe or because they have been paid by Al-Qaeda,” he added.
“Yemen is not Afghanistan, nor Pakistan, where the jihad (holy war) ideology is strong. Here, the tribes are always on the side of the one who pays, according to their interests. They could sell Al-Qaeda men from one day to next.”
Saleh, whose job includes overseeing Yemen’s Anti-terrorism Unit, is not in favour of forming a tribal anti-Qaeda militia, along the lines of the American-backed Sunni Awakening front in Iraq, which was created to fight Al-Qaeda.
Saleh described such measure as “very dangerous”.
“If you do so, the tribes would hand us presumed Al-Qaeda militants in hundreds, just for money. It would be very easy, but hardly efficient.”
The government has been tightening the screw on Al-Qaeda militants, mainly after AQAP claimed responsibility for the failed bomb attack on a US airliner on Christmas Day.
Britain is organising a conference on Yemen to be held on January 27, and which many in the country fear might set the stage for foreign intervention. Sanaa is attempting to prove that it is cable of tackling the militants without foreign forces.