CTU leader in Abyan to the Yemen Times “Somalis, Saudis and Sudanese fight for Ansar Al-Sharia in Abyan.”
Many debates and media reports have been claiming that the Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU), an elite group of forces trained by the United States and Britain to fight terror in Yemen, do not participate in the fighting against Ansar Al-Sharia, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Abyan.
In early April, newly installed President Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi deployed the CTU forces to Abyan to take part in the fighting against Ansar Al-Sharia.
To understand more about the involvement of the CTU in the war against Ansar Al-Sharia, Sadeq Al-Faqih of the Yemen Times conducted the following interview on May 10th, 2012 with Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Al-Sawti, leader of CTU in Abyan.
Are all Yemeni army units involved in fighting in Abyan to fulfill their duties in the battlefield?
Now the situation is better. The mutual coordination between all military and security units is better than ever. The people's committees, civilian fighters, play an important role in battles as well.
In the battles, Ansar Al-Sharia retreated. Many militants were killed while others were captured. They will be defeated soon.
You say many militants were killed. How many of them are there and of what nationalities?
There are between 25-40 Yemenis and Somalis. More details will be revealed in coming battles.
Several politicians criticized the CTU for not being engaged in battles. Is this correct?
No. The CTU participates in battles but in tactical ways I will no give more details about. Those who say such a thing want to create separation among the military units. We have to enlighten soldiers as well as all Yemenis of that.
How long have the Special Forces from Central Security Forces and the CTU been in Abyan?
For more than two months we have been fighting against the militants using all our military equipment.
What is the role the people's committees play in battles?
They play tactical, informational and morale-lifting roles. They have a crucial task because they know well the areas in Abyan. So they help us and the other military units. They are part and parcel of the battles.
Do the people's committees have heavy weapons? What are their weapons?
Yes. Belief in Allah is their weapon. They believe fighting against these factions is a sacred religious duty. They fight battles alongside the army against the militants. They have high morale and soon victory will be achieved. War on terror has become essential.
Did you capture Ansar Al-Sharia militants? If so, what were their nationalities?
Yes we did. They are Somalis, Sudanese and Saudis.
How are the Central Security Forces and the other military units being provided with rations and weapons?
The logistics are given for all military units. They receive daily snacks. Some friends of mine told me that officials in the logistics department are concerned with the logistics of the military units and they do their best to guarantee that each gets his ration. I hope all officials in other military departments follow their lead.
Do you have all the needed weapons?
Yes we do.
How many soldiers from the CTU and the Special Units of the Central Security Forces were killed in battles?
Many soldiers were killed. I can't exactly say how many but today we lost six soldiers in Yasoof.
How can you explain the previous defeats of the military? Were they because of tactical mistakes, collusion, faulty logistics, lack of mutual coordination, or because the soldiers were newly-recruited and untrained?
No, there is no collusion and everything being said about that is hearsay; those who spread these rumors have to come to the battlefield instead of staying in hotels and depending on others to bring in information. There is a saying, "War is very easy for spectators."
Sometimes, the reason is a lack of coordination between leadership and soldiers and also a lack of precise information. Sometimes there may be obstacles but they aren't being conveyed to the leaders which causes problems. Moreover, ignoring some important information may affect the battle.
Correspondents must work according to ethical standards. They have to support the military instead of spreading rumors that affect them. They have to look for the truth.
Do you have mutual military operations centers?
Yes. We manage clashes and deal with all military units as brothers.
Do you receive intelligence information?
Yes. We receive information and then convey it to the soldiers.
Do all military units patrol areas to look for militants or is it restricted to you?
All military units patrol the suspected areas but if commands are given to us to search an area we do.
Does the Central Security Forces leadership pay enough attention to you?
Yes they do. President Hadi and the CSF Chief of Staff always pay attention to our needs.
Do you have mobile hospitals? Or where do you take the wounded fighters?
We take the wounded fighters to checkpoints of the military forces and then they are taken to Beida' governorate and then to hospitals there.
Does the state follow secret policy to protect your fighters? And does it pay attention to whatever happens to them?
You have to ask the Minister of Interior.
How can you explain the victory in Yasoof area? Did Special Forces and the Republican Guards participate in the battle?
Yes. The people's committees fighters, the 26th Republican Guards Brigade, the 10th Republican Guard Brigade and the 111th brigade. We all participated in the battle and sacrificed for the sake of our country.
What is your message to all Yemenis?
I want to tell all Yemenis that the military, the security forces and the people's committees are fighting together against the militants. They have one aim and are determined to achieve victory to free Yemen of those terrorist factions, whatever the sacrifices may be.
All Yemenis must be responsible in finding a way out of this unprecedented dilemma.
How many troops CTU and Special Forces troops are in Abyan?
This is top secret.
What is your message to the media?
They have to pay attention to things that will boost the morale of the military instead of raising rumors. They have to convey the problems of families of those killed and wounded. They have to enlighten Yemenis of the danger of these terrorist members and groups.
Moreover, they have to shed light on this problem and convey it to all people so that they can be aware of the consequences of being attracted by such groups.
They have to reveal the people responsible for cutting electricity power lines and blocking roads, instead of creating separation among the army units.
They ought to thank the soldiers whether dead or alive, officers and leaders who are fighting in Abyan.