As Yemen faces an aggravated terror threat since al-Qaeda has increased the frequency and reach of its attacks against both the military and security apparatus, President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi has been driving the counter-offensive, determined to oppose this new wave of terrorism.
Earlier this Monday the government held an extraordinary meeting to discuss al Qaeda and other existing threats to national security, namely the Houthis and Secessionists. Both the Houthis (Shiite faction based in northern Yemen) and Haraki militants, (Southern Secessionist Movement) have hindered the transition of power, feeding off people’s resentment of Sana’a and slow progress on the ground.
Both factions’ desire to capitalize on their 2011 momentum has created a situation whereby the state has been forced to give in into the groups’ increasingly bold demands and expectations, thus weakening the authority of the central government. Only last week President Hadi came under fire after he attempted to broker an agreement with the Houthis by presenting its leadership with gifts: weapons and heads of cattle, as per tribal tradition, a move lawmakers understood as sign of weakness and lack of political resolve before adversity.
Sources at the presidential palace were keen to explain that far from playing into the hands of the Houthis, President Hadi were merely attempting to resolve differences peacefully as not to further endanger Yemen’s delicate political and institutional transition.
Both the Defence and Interior Ministries have vowed to mobilize their resources to address Yemen’s dire security issues and restore law and order. And not a moment too soon … Within days of the meeting later al-Qaeda came test such resolve when its operatives targeted the Fourth Brigade Headquarters in Aden this Wednesday.
With so much riding on the line, officials have called for tougher sanctions and laws against terrorist acts and terror sympathizers. This new tactic falls in line with security experts’ recommendations as they have often argued that by targeting terror upstream activities, officials would be more likely to suffocate Islamists and thus limit their reach.
Newly appointed Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Abdo al-Tarab presented on Monday a security report. He stressed, “The security and military services will put all their energy and available resources into countering terrorism and will continue to combat this phenomenon; no matter the cost …These agencies must be provided with financial, technical and moral support so they can perform their duties to the fullest.”
Speaking to al-Shorfa this week, Deputy Minister of Legal Affairs Ahmed al-Mahrouq reacted to the meeting by noting, “It is important that a special law on terrorist crimes be adopted, to include the concept, definition and characterisation of terrorism, as well as provide deterrent penalties for these crimes that are commensurate with the devastation, destruction and negative consequences to society they cause.”
Al-Mahrouq essentially argued that as it currently stands Yemen penal system cannot adequately deal with the country’s aggravated terror threat or the recent wave of banditry. He called on tougher sanctions and tougher deterrents as to reflect the times and commensurate with the gravity of crimes.
Interior Minister al-Kaedi concurred with his colleague, emphasizing, “All government agencies must make concerted efforts to maintain security and assist security agencies in the performance of their duties … The current penalties are no longer deterrent or prohibitive to those involved in terrorist crimes, and this is what compelled the Interior Ministry to call for the issuance of a special law with stiffer penalties for this type of crime.”
“Combating terrorism now calls for tougher penalties for those who carry out [terrorist acts] against citizens and public interests, and they need to be even stiffer when they are carried out against security and army personnel,” al-Kaedi added.
With Yemen facing an uphill terror battle, officials want to ensure that the country place sets in place a system which will enable its institutions to combat terrorism. And indeed, as per advised by security and counter-terror experts, only through the establishment of strong institutions will Yemen weather its terror storm.