Yemen Apologizes for Airstrike That Killed Local Official

25/5/2010 -

 

Source: New York Times

SANA, Yemen — The government here apologized Tuesday for an airstrike that killed a local official as he tried to persuade a member of Al Qaeda to surrender, inciting a group of armed men to retaliate by attacking an oil pipeline and government offices.

 

The botched airstrike on Monday night killed Sheik Jabir al-Shabwani, deputy governor of Marib Province, along with his four bodyguards. Officials here said that Mr. Shabwani was trying to persuade Mohammed Saeed Jardan, a leader in the terrorist network, to surrender. Mr. Jardan was uninjured.

 

The failed killing in the eastern province of Marib, an isolated, under developed haven for Al Qaeda, prompted members of the victim’s tribe to blow up an oil pipeline and attack government offices in the Republican Palace, officials said.

 

Witnesses said that 20 tanks and armored vehicles surrounded the palace and that gunfights took place between the tribesmen and the police.

 

Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, called for an investigation into the airstrike while tribal leaders met to devise a formal unified response.

 

Working with the United States, officials in Yemen have increased efforts to break terrorist networks, which have long found safety in the isolated rock and desert corners of this troubled nation at the foot of the Arabian peninsula. Tribal loyalty and tribal structures often challenge and undermine the authority of the state.

 

Just this week, the government confirmed that two American tourists were kidnapped outside of Sana, along with their Yemeni driver and translator, by members of the Shardah tribe.

 

The Associated Press said Tuesday that Abdullah al-Safani, a local official in the area where the Americans were abducted, said the tribesmen released the captives and that they were being escorted by the authorities back to the capital.

 

An Interior Ministry official confirmed the release. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

 

 

Mohammed al-Asaadi reported from Sana, and Michael Slackman from Cairo.