Tribesmen in Dhamar demand archaeology police pay “blood money”
The robber was killed in a February 27 gun battle on between a gang of looters - who were unlawfully digging at the archaeological site - and policemen tasked with protecting the site.
An Ans local authority source said the tribal decision had been reached by tribal sheikh Ali Yahya Abu Yabis.
Security authorities had been slow to arrest members of the gang of looters, which had targeted the ancient site.
The noteworthy site includes relics from various civilizations, from the Stone Age up to the time of the Himyari State, which is evidenced by inscriptions and Al-Musnad writings found in neighboring areas.
A tribal source affirmed that the tribal decision had ignored the fact that the slain man was caught looting red-handed, also effectively effacing the site along with a skilled gang of robbers.
The source also said that such a decision would encourage archaeological trafficking and have a negative impact on soldiers and police protecting such sites.
The tribal source added that the security services and local authorities had failed to assume their responsibility to arrest members of the gang, to investigate what quality and types of tools they were using to excavate, and to learn what their specific motives had been in carrying out such crimes.
A report issued by a committee – headed by Salah Al-Komani, director of Archaeology for the Public Authority for Archaeology, Museums and Manuscripts in Dhamar governorate – tasked with surveying the site said the site was vulnerable to sabotage and notified guards of this on February 27, 2012.
Excavations were carried out randomly in many parts of the site, with some excavations two meters deep, which made it clear that the gang’s looting efforts had taken a long time, this according to the committee’s report.
The report stated that a large number of broken stones had been rooted up outside the excavated places, and that a layer of Qadhadh, a locally-made material, had been destroyed by the robbers.
The report also said the site’s raid can be considered a significant loss that will hinder archaeological researchers from learning about the site’s layers.
The excavation process brought some of the site’s inner walls to the surface, and some pieces of walls had been removed at random. The archaeological team found the remains of broken pieces of pottery.
The committee recommended a swift reinforcement of soldiers at the site, and formed a team to reconsider security options for the site, including the construction of a wall around it.
A source from Mariah village said the gang entered the site at night, and that they had taken with them a number of tools specifically tailored for archaeological exploration. The source added that four of the gang’s members – including the killed man – were originally from an area which neighbors the site.
«Two members of the gang were experts from Marib governorate, and another - from Raima governorate – disappeared, while the others are currently being investigated,» read the committee’s report.
A source from Dhamar’s Archaeology Authority accused the security services and local authorities of turning a blind eye to the issue and of ignoring a site considered to be among Yemen’s most significant.
Sources close to the guards have not ruled out the possibility that the killing might have been carried out by members of the gang itself, and pointed out that the crossfire occurred in darkness. The guards demanded that the rest of the gang be arrested so that they could be properly investigated.
Families of the guards demanded that the Archaeology Authority and other government authorities not abandon their relatives, and emphasized that the guards were performing a national duty, that of defending and protecting the assets of Yemenis in particular, and of human beings in general.
Many state documents and correspondences were exchanged between local authorities in Ans and Dhamar’s security services, in which each party demanded that the case be reviewed by the other.
One local authority document demanded that the Interior Ministry arrest the gang that raided the site, and also that it reinforce the site’s security.
However, the local authority did not mention the tribal decision that included the demand that the guards pay a YR 11 million <diyah’.