Al-Qaeda enters Al-Baidah’s Rada’ capital

Published on 16 January 2012 in News
Malak Shaher (author)

Malak Shaher

Al-Ameria mosque was established 500 years ago. It was closed for five years before Al-Qaeda members prayed there on Saturday.

Al-Ameria mosque was established 500 years ago. It was closed for five years before Al-Qaeda members prayed there on Saturday.

SANA’A, Jan. 15 — At least 80 militants believed to be from Al-Qaeda entered Rada’, the capital of Al-Baidah, 170 km south-east the capital Sana’a, on Saturday, according to Yahiya Al-Nusairi, head of the governorate’s Architecture Office.

Al-Nusairi told the Yemen Times that they first entered the Al-Ameria Mosque at 3 p.m., and proceeded to perform the afternoon prayer.

“They performed two prayers there and then delivered a lecture. After that, they seized Al-Ameria Castle,” said Al-Nusairi. He added that people cannot stop anyone who wishes to pray in a mosque. He said, however, that he does not “really know how they passed the checkpoints with their weapons and rocket propelled grenades”.

Al-Nusairi continued: “After we asked them not to do any harm to the mosque, nor to break the branch of a single tree, their leader, Tariq Al-Dhahab, promised to comply.”

However, according to the district-based RDA Press website, the militants’ number didn’t exceed 20 and that they left the mosque to stay at an old fort overlooking the district.

The Al-Ameria Mosque and school was built 500 years ago in the Islamic architectural style. Al-Nusairi said that it is currently open only for prayer, but that use of the bathrooms has been suspended because of financial difficulties. People in groups have not prayed together there for 15 years, as it has been under renovation.

Al-Nusairi said that the militants may have been urged on by Islah Party followers from Rada’. Members of the conservative opposition party, he continued, may have pushed the militants to help them open the mosque.

“We do not know what their intention is,” he concluded.

According to Majed Karrod, a reporter from Marib Press, the militants passed through checkpoints and “soldiers might have even greeted them.” He said that Tariq Al-Dhahab was accused a couple of months ago of killing seven government soldiers.

“Al-Dhahab was among the militants who seized Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan governorate, in May. He has a battalion of 400 to 500 warriors,” said Karrod.

Karrod said that people of Dhamar feel happy about “opening the mosque and the school after it hasn’t been used for more than five years.”

He added that the government had wanted to open the school and mosque as a tourist landmark, but that locals wanted it to continue to serve as a mosque and school.