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The Story of the Yemeni Escape - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A wave of feedback regarding the news of the escape of 23 prisoners and former members of Al-Qaeda from the Yemeni intelligence prison stated that the event was more like a poorly directed movie or practical joke. The story was that the fugitives had dug a tunnel between the prison and the nearest mosque on a Friday. It seems that the readers were right after all, that the story about digging a tunnel with spoons is not true but rather that the escapees left through the prison’s main door and this represents a major flaw in the security system or even treason by guards or prison officers. The escape may have dangerous repercussions not only for the local Yemeni political scene but also for the international arena, equal in danger for the fugitive Al-Qaeda elements who cannot be helped and who cannot hide for much longer.

Yemen is an exhausted country that cannot be admitted into further dilemma especially that it spends large sums of money on defense and security, the amount of which has doubled this year; whilst it has had to decrease expenditure on electricity. Furthermore, Yemen is worn out on the security front, already burdened with Al-Houthi’s supporters who have declared a state of war against the country. The easy escape of the Al-Qaeda members from Sanaa will place Yemen in a difficult position especially concerning its ally, the United States. Ties between Yemen and the US had improved since Yemen announced its war on terrorism and Al-Qaeda. With the escape, Yemen may lose this relationship with the United States unless it can put the escapees back in their cell, which frankly, is less than likely to happen.

The hole that has been dug by the Yemeni government itself, which granted freedom for the escapees, will imprison the Yemeni government for life. Yemen is currently experiencing severe financial crises that have erupted with the rise in oil prices. Politically, the Yemeni government is facing the opposition parties that insist upon the implementation of fair elections, most notably from religious parties, inspired by the success of Palestinian movement Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Despite the Yemeni president’s stand against the request of the United States to extradite the leader of the reformist religious party wanted by the US for allegedly sponsoring terrorism, opposition in Yemen did not appreciate this move and did not thank the president for his nobility. Accordingly, Sanaa is now obliged to find a way out of this hole in which it shall face the rage of America as well as the mutiny of Al-Houthi’s supporters in the mountains and the local oppositions. Yemen needs to find scapegoats, needs to develop its political system and reform governmental work. Difficult demands and unrealistic ones have always existed in Yemen balancing the country’s contradictory interests. How will Yemen survive the persistently escalating crisis?

The Yemeni government will not be able to regain its strength in the international sphere unless it proves that it is serious in its battle against terrorism and those who fund it. This would also be accompanied by the incorporation of the Yemeni opposition in administering or supervising elections that is a major source of dispute between government and opposition. As for the rebellion of Al-Houthi, this shall persist, but will remain in the mountains.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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