MS Risk Blog

Yemeni Forces Free Hostages; Security Breach at Sana’a Embassy

Posted on in Yemen title_rule

25 November– In an overnight operation, Yemeni Special Forces freed eight hostages who had been held by a group tied to al-Qaeda in Lahji province, Southern Yemen. Seven of the kidnappers were reportedly killed in the operation.

Sources state that seven Yemeni nationals were released, along with an eighth foreign national. The Yemeni Supreme Security Committee did not disclose the nationality of the foreign hostage. Sources suggest the victim was a US military instructor who worked at al-Anad Air Base, nearly 37 miles north of Aden. However senior US defence officials have denied these reports. In 2012, the US resumed on-the-ground military training in an attempt to arm Yemeni security forces in the fight against al Qaeda. It is believed that the rescue operation took place near the base. One member of the Yemeni Special Forces was lightly wounded in the mission.

Kidnapping has become increasingly common in Yemen. In recent years, Al Qaeda has taken advantage of the “hostage black market” in which they outsource the seizing of hostages to regional tribes, gangs or affiliates, who are in turn, paid a commission. This practice has been used by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, which is regarded as one of the most active al Qaeda branches in the world. AQAP has been known to work with local tribes that abduct victims for financial benefit. Al Qaeda collects the hostages and seeks to negotiate for ransom. Further, political kidnapping has occurred in instances where tribesmen kidnap victims in an attempt to resolve disputes with the government.

Meanwhile, a potential security breach has been reported at the US Embassy in Yemen. A corrupt worker is believed to have taken bribes and processed as many as 50 fraudulent visas, allowing applicants to enter the United States with falsified documents. The documents claim that the applicants were to travel to Houston for an oil industry conference. The State Department investigation reveals that the oil companies listed on the applications were fictitious, and none of the applicants attended the ‘Offshore Technology Conference’ after travelling to the US. The whereabouts of the Yemeni nationals are unknown. Further, the true purpose of their entry to the US is unclear; speculation ranges from attempts to conduct terrorist operations in the US, to fleeing from a war torn nation. It is unknown whether the entrants pose a risk to national security.

The visas were issued at the US embassy in Sana’a. A legal complaint lists a single defendant, who was discovered working in a grocery store in the Bronx, New York. He has been arrested on fraud charges and is held without bail.

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