Leader of Lawdar’s People’s Defense Fighters speaks to the Yemen Times
Saeed Gharama is the leader of the people’s committees, groups of local people established to back the Yemeni military in Lawdar. The local fighters are said to have driven Al-Qaeda’s militants out of Lawdar after several failed attempts by Al-Qaeda to take control of the city.
Sadeq Al-Faqih of the Yemen Times conducted the following interview with Gharama on the phone from Sana’a on Friday May 18.
Do the military operations, in coordination between you and the army units, have to be validated by high officials in the military?
Do you and the military take commands from a unified operation center?
Sometimes we just coordinate with them.
What is the area you retook on Monday, May 15, 2012?
We retook Yasoof Mountain.
How many fighters from the people's committees were killed?
Eight fighters were killed. In fact I’d like to take this opportunity to express my condolences to their families.
Did the terrorists have fixed strongholds established in Yasoof? If so, what do they look like?
Yes. They had fixed strongholds and were in the process of establishing new ones. They used heavy equipment to make trenches and barricades. Moreover, they fortified them so that they couldn’t be easily destroyed.
What were the new plans and procedures that made this battle differ from previous ones?
The difference was that a staff officer of the 111th infantry brigade, Faraj Hussein, led the attack himself along with a heavy deployment of soldiers of the Republican Guard.
The soldiers were very afraid and about to withdraw, but the fighters of the people's committees reinforced them and boosted their morale. They all fought together for the sake of Yemen until they achieved victory, and the coming victory will even be greater.
Do you think that the state pays enough attention to the people's committees?
I don't think so. The state needs to pay more attention to them.
Are there fighters from other areas other than Abyan?
Most of the fighters are from Abyan. However a few of them are from other areas such as Mukeras and Lawdar.
How many fighters are there in the people's committees? Will you able to recruit more people from other governorates?
For security reasons, I can't say how many people we have. However, I can assure you that we are able to recruit more people and this will raise the fighters' morale.
Do the Political Security, National Security and Yemeni Intelligence agencies participate in the fight by giving you information?
Yes. They play a role in exchanging information on the battlefield.
Was the military supplied with modern weapons and new military vehicles?
Yes. The military has armored vehicles, military trucks, machine guns, sniper rifles and other modern weapons to facilitate its success in fighting.
Have the Army and Security units been unified under the command of a single leader?
Yes. All the units are under the command of one leader.
Do you receive weapons from the political leadership, particularly from the military?
No. The political leadership hasn’t armed us except for a few secondhand guns given to us at the beginning of battles. Though they haven’t supplied us with enough, we will continue fighting.
Did you receive telecommunication devices from the military telecommunication department?
We have telecommunication rooms and are using usual telecommunication devices.
Do you take the bodies of the Ansar Al-Sharia militants? If so, how many were there and where are they from?
Yes. We have the bodies of four Somalis, a militant from Mauddia (a district in Abyan) and another from Marib. In addition to the Saudis we have killed between 1200-2500 militants.
Are Ansar AL-Sharia present in other areas?
Yes. The Southern region, which is a very important area, is open to them and they move around freely there.
Do Ansar Al-Sharia militants still have the military vehicles and weapons that they had taken previously?
Yes. They still have light weapons, machine guns, sniper rifles, mortars, and a tank. They only lack warplanes.
Do warplanes participate in battles, particularly in today's battle? If yes, are they Yemeni or foreign warplanes?
Only Yemeni warplanes are engaged in the battles. They launch air raids on Ansar Al-Sharia strongholds every day. Foreign warplanes have never participated.
Are fighters of the people's committees well-trained to engage in battles?
No, but Allah inspires them to fight properly and helps with any difficulties they face.
How can you explain the pervious defeats of the military? Has there been any betrayal or conspiracy?
No. no one even thinks of that.
Regarding your position, as the leader of the people's committees, are you a soldier?
No. I'm a teacher.
Is it possible that Ansar Al-Sharia militants belong only to the Abyan governorate?
No. The militants are from many different Yemeni governorates.
Where does Ansar Al-Sharia take their injured fighters?
They have a mobile hospital in Alnabaq, in addition to a clinic in Al-Khodaira, Shuqra and Ja’ar. They also have doctors of different nationalities.
Where do they (Ansar Al-Sharia) bury their killed militants?
They don't have special places to bury the dead militants. They bury them in deserted areas like Alminiasa, Mhaidan and Alwade'. They also have workers to dig the graves and bury the bodies of the killed fighters.
Did you find any landmines when you took over Yasoof Mountain? And were they made in Yemen or elsewhere?
Yes. There were landmines and explosive devices made in Yemen which they used against soldiers and military vehicles.
Do they have any camps to train their militants? Where exactly?
Yes. They have training camps, particularly in Azzan ( a city in Shabwa) , Ja’ar, Zaher and Alhomaikan.
Do you think the military officers do their duties preparing and encouraging soldiers to engage in battles?
So far, I'm not convinced that they do their duties.
Do the news media do a good job covering what is really happening daily there?
No. They pay no attention to what is going on there. All they care about is the rich, the officials and those who own the media.
Are there local and foreign correspondents to report events and clashes in Abyan and convey the sufferings of residents and their needs?
No. Only the correspondent present during battles is from Aden Live Channel (a satellite T.V channel that airs from Beirut and is affiliated with the Southern Movement.) However, other correspondents come after it's calmed down following battles. Sometimes, the correspondents get their information from people that we don't know. The press needs higher standards when reporting the news so that they don’t simply report rumors.
What do Ansar Al-Sharia militants do when you start putting pressure on them?
They shoot civilians and shell houses, mosques, neighborhoods, educational and public health facilities.
What do you think is the difference between Al-Qaeda and Ansar Al-Sharia?
The only difference is that Al-Qaeda has mercy whereas Ansar Al-Sharia militants are merciless.
What do you urge the government to do and what is your message to those who can only watch Ansar Al-Sharia and await further transgressions?
I call for all to follow the example of the people's committees and I call for all officials and the politicians in every government ministries and institution to leave fear behind and to deal with these fragments of society [Ansar Al-Sharia] strongly and swiftly. They need to stand by the side of the political leadership to purge the country from them and their secret agents.
I call for the state to arm the people's committee's fighters, with equally powerful weapons as those used by Ansar Al-Sharia.
Do the leaders of the Southern Movement support this terrorist group, as claimed in the media?
No. The Southern Movement doesn't support them. The media has to visit Abyan to convey these terroristic acts and their brutal crimes to the world.
What is your message to all Yemenis?
I hope that loyal Yemenis, tribes, and social organizations will help to resist and eradicate these militants of Ansar Al-Sharia. With the participation of all Yemenis, it will be easy to achieve victory.
On May 22nd we will celebrate the anniversary of Yemen unification, along with celebrating the victory in Abyan.
I hope that I didn't offend anyone by my speech because I'm used to saying the truth, whatever the truth may be. Thank you.