ADEN, Yemen, May 18 -- Yemen's security forces managed to capture one of the most prominent al-Qaida leaders during an anti-terrorism operation launched on Saturday in the country's southwestern province of Taiz.
"An elite anti-terrorism security operation managed to capture one of the most dangerous al-Qaida leaders named Bilal Ali Wafi who is wanted as a global terrorist," officer Abdul-Basit Baher said. He added that the anti-terrorism security troops raided an old house in the western countryside of Taiz province and succeeded in capturing Wafi who refused to surrender himself and attempted to use children and women as human shields. A security member was injured during the shooting that erupted while attempting to capture Wafi in his hometown village, he added. Yemeni security authorities previously accused Wafi of masterminding a series of attacks and assassinations against the country's security and government officials. Wafi was operating as a prominent member of the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and participated in a terrorist attack in 2012 against a military parade in capital Sanaa, killing more than 100 soldiers and injuring nearly 300 others, Yemeni authorities said.
In October 2017, the United States and other Gulf countries designated 11 Yemenis including Wafi as terrorists who were wanted by security authorities. The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch AQAP, which mostly operates in eastern and southern provinces, has been responsible for many attacks against security forces in the country. The provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, former main strongholds of AQAP, have also been the scene of sporadic attacks or heavy clashes between the United Arab Emirates-backed security forces and al-Qaida militants from time to time. The AQAP, seen by the U.S. as the global terror network's most dangerous branch, has exploited years of deadly conflicts between Yemen's government and Houthi rebels to expand its presence, especially in the southern and southeastern provinces. Enditem
STOCKHOLM, December 6 -- A team from Yemen's Saudi-backed government left for Sweden on Wednesday to attend peace talks with members of the Iran-aligned Houthi group, in a renewed U.N. push to end a war that has pushed the country to the brink of starvation.
One representative of the internationally-recognised government, Abdullah al-Alimi, tweeted that the talks were "a true opportunity for peace," before the delegation flew out of the Saudi capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - leaders of a Western-backed coalition battling the Houthis to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government - want to exit a war that has dragged on for nearly four years. Western allies, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition, have ramped up pressure on them to find a way to end a conflict that killed tens of thousands of people and left more than 8 million facing famine.
The Saudi-led alliance intervened in the civil war in 2015 after the Houthi movement ousted Hadi's government from the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2014. But the conflict has seen military stalemate since the alliance seized the southern port of Aden. The conflict is seen across the region as a proxy war between Sunni Muslim power Riyadh and Shi'ite Tehran. Seeking to reinvigorate peace efforts, U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths secured some confidence-building measures, including the evacuation of Houthi wounded, to help persuade the movement to attend the talks in Sweden. The Houthi delegation arrived there on Tuesday, having failed to turn up for previous talks in Geneva in September.
TRUCE, PRISONER SWAP
The latest round, to be held in a renovated castle outside Stockholm, will focus on agreeing other confidence-building steps and the formation of a transitional governing body. It was not clear if the warring parties would hold direct talks or if Griffiths would shuttle between the two sides. "If the consultations proceed positively, we will see an immediate change for people in Yemen. We will see fewer people hit by and fleeing violence, fewer people pushed to the most desperate means of staying alive," said Mohamed Abdi, Yemen country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council.
"Equally, if the consultations fail, or stall, so too will hopes of halting Yemen's steady descent into hell," he said in a statement. The U.N. envoy is seeking agreement on reopening Sanaa airport, swapping prisoners and securing a truce in the Houthi-held port of Hodeidah, now a focus of the war. This could lead to a wider ceasefire that would halt coalition air strikes and Houthi missile attacks on Saudi cities. The United Nations is trying to avert a full-scale assault on Hodeidah, the entry point for most of Yemen's commercial goods and aid. Both sides have reinforced positions in the Red Sea city in sporadic battles after a de-escalation last month.
International outrage over the Oct. 2 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's Istanbul consulate has refocused attention on the Yemen war and scrutiny over Saudi Arabia's activities in the region. The U.S. Senate is set to consider a resolution to end support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
The United States last month halted refuelling support for coalition warplanes, whose air strikes have been blamed for the deaths of thousands of civilians.