Thursday, February 11, 2010
Ceasefire with Yemeni rebels could help government fight al-Qaida
Today's announcement of a ceasefire with Houthi rebels in the northwest could be the best news Yemen's embattled government has gotten in years. The ceasefire was expected to take effect at midnight Thursday and, if it holds, should help the government focus on the country's al-Qaida insurgency, which made headlines in December by taking credit for an unsuccessful attempt to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day. Yemen has a powerful new incentive for going after al-Qaida rebels -- last month's international conference in London made such an effort a prerequisite for billions of dollars in development aid from Western nations, according to the New York Times. Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries, is seeking outside investment to improve often poor living conditions, including desperate shortages of food and water, that have made the Arabian Peninsula country largely ungovernable and limited the government's authority to major cities. The government in Sana also battling a secessionist movement in the south. Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, said four committees would be formed to monitor compliance in the north, and rebel leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi issued a statement Thursday accepting the conditions of the ceasefire, the Times said. Among those conditions are the opening of blocked roads, withdrawing fighters from civilian areas and the return of detainees. The government also demanded that the rebels stop attacks on neighboring Saudi Arabia, which briefly attacked the rebels in November after a border guard was killed. But more than 100 Saudi soldiers have been killed in guerrilla-style attacks since then, the Times said. The Houthi rebels are considered Zaydis, a Shiite offshoot, the Times said.