Sanaa, Asharq Al-Awsat- Even though everyone came out to celebrate the departure of the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh from Yemen to Saudi Arabia for treatment, considering it a final departure from power and the country, what happened last Friday was a major event which has not received sufficient follow-up and attention.
Observers believe that the explosion that took place in the presidential palace mosque, located in the Sabaeen district in the south of Sana’a, during clashes between the group affiliated to Sheikh Sadeq al Ahmar in the Hassaba and Hadda neighborhoods, diverted attention away from the important fact that the presidential palace had been subjected to an attack that killed seven presidential bodyguards, and injured the president himself and senior statesmen and advisors to various degrees. Rather, it directed attention towards the fact that the attack came in response to the shelling of Sheikh Hamid al Ahmar’s residence in Hadda, which was carried out by the Republican Guard, and no information was provided on the source of the bombing.
In the first movements following the attack on the presidential mosque, there were three prominent reactions. Firstly, a lot of people were not convinced by what had happened, and considered to be another fabrication of an ongoing media war. Secondly, the al-Ahmar group accused President Saleh of masterminding the blast in order to get rid of his leadership, and then go on to blame the al-Ahmar clan, who were quick to deny any connection to the incident. Thirdly, government leaders accused Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar’s group, and General Ali Mohsen Saleh al-Ahmar, of being involved in the incident.
However, official statements returned to accuse al-Qaeda of involvement in the operation, which is considered the first of its kind in Yemen. Whoever knows President Ali Abdullah Saleh would find it hard to believe that his fortified palace was subjected to an explosive attack, as Saleh is known for taking very strict security precautions. He will not go down any street or road unless his private guards have been deployed and extensively searched the area, in addition to his convoy of cars which can detect mines and jam communication devices. Furthermore, no one knows which car Saleh is in, as all the vehicles are identical with blacked-out windows, and no one is allowed to walk by his car as the convoy passes.
President Saleh’s security apparatus will also inspect any location he intends to visit the day before his arrival. Then they will take control of the area, intensify their search procedures, and prevent the entry of any type of weaponry. Modern search and inspection methods are used, along with various equipment and sniffer dogs. In addition to that, President Saleh is surrounded by bodyguards who are constantly prepared should Saleh encounter someone intending to target the President, whether in a public or private gathering. This is instead of imposing a blanket ban on anyone possessing a mobile phone in a location where Saleh is present.
With his tendency for high security and his extreme procedures, President Ali Abdullah Saleh was able to stay in power for more than three decades, without being subjected to any genuine assassination attempt. However observers believe that what happened last Friday was unusual, and organized meticulously by a party that had the capabilities, information and considerations enabling it to carry out the bombing with such accuracy.
Despite this, the Yemeni Public Relations Secretary, Ahmed al Sufi, accused the United States of orchestrating the bombing that targeted the Yemeni presidency through its policy of incitement. There are others who say that rocket was launched from a US drone, such as the Yemeni writer Ahmed Saleh al Faqih, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat. Al Faqih said that the Americans are the only ones who have the capacity to carry out this kind of operation, especially as a large number of officers from the Republican Guard, the Special Forces, and Counter-terrorism forces completed their training in the US. They [the Americans] are in continuous contact with the parties that “undertake the fight against terrorism in Yemen, and this contact makes them influential over groups that can do what they want.”
As to the reasons why the US would supposedly carry out such a step, al Faqih said, “Saleh deviated from a lot of what was agreed upon, perhaps most of what was agreed upon, such as those issues related to counter-terrorism and dealing with terrorists. The most prominent example of the revolving door policy was the arrest and subsequent release of wanted Al Qaeda prisoners, the most notorious of whom was Jamal al Badawi, the mastermind behind the USS Cole bombings, who is of great importance to the United States. And then there is the issue of weapons stockpiling. The US offered a large amount of money to buy [the excess weaponry] and asked Saleh to reduce the level of arms trafficking. Yet then Saleh brought an arms trafficker to take part in a meeting with John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism”.
The political writer said that the reason the United States attributes so much importance to Yemen’s stability “is because a failed state in a tribal society close to an oil-rich area, and close to international shipping routes, makes Yemen a constant threat, in addition to plots to carry out operations in the United States itself. Ali Saleh is not fulfilling his role and he is using groups from Al Qaeda to his own advantage, and this is what makes him a direct opponent. The assassination was not necessarily carried out through a drone but by “having someone who has the authority to enter the presidential palace place a high-tech bomb inside the mosque”.
Therefore the bomb suspects are as follows: the al Ahmar clan, General Ali Mohsen, Al Qaeda, the United States, and the Huthis. The question remains: who tried to kill President Saleh?