Security forces leave captured soldiers’ release to tribal mediation

Published on 3 October 2013 in News
Nasser Al-Sakkaf (author)

Nasser Al-Sakkaf


ABYAN, Oct. 2—Security forces in Shabwa governorate say they know the whereabouts of the 20 soldiers abducted by armed men ten days ago, but they cannot secure their release because they are in an Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) stronghold. Security officials say they are instead, relying on tribal mediation to release the captured soldiers.

The men were abducted during two attacks on soldiers in Shabwa on Sept. 20, which left 22 dead and 18 wounded.

Officer Shakir Al-Ghadeer of Brigade 111 said investigations have led them to believe the kidnapped soldiers are being held on the Al-Marakisha Mountain in Abyan.

Al-Ghadeer says the Al-Marakisha Mountain is known to be AQAP territory.

“A security presence is non-existent on Al-Marakisha Mountain because Al-Qaeda affiliates have heavy weapons ready for use,” Al-Ghadeer said.

The officer says an attack on the mountain could be disastrous for the military.

 “[They] are not familiar with the mountainous areas where the soldiers are being held.”

The only way for security forces to reach the area, Al-Ghadeer claims, is through aerial raids. The military is not interested in this type of confrontation, he added.

Further complicating the problem, Popular Committees set-up to fight Al-Qaeda affiliates since they seized parts of Southern Yemen in 2011 have been unwilling to confront the affiliates this time around, Al-Ghadeer added.   

Shabwa assistant security manager Mubark Al-Zalm said security officials have contacted tribal sheikhs in Abyan to negotiate the release of the soldiers, saying efforts are ongoing.

“The sheikhs met with the soldiers, finding them in good condition,” Al-Zalm said.

 “Abyan governorate is incapable of fighting…because security forces have been exhausted. Currently, it’s the tribal sheikhs who have influence, not security forces,” he said.   

There have been no demands for money yet, Al-Zalm said.  

Second Marine Brigade Bahri Hassan Al-Shakila, who guards oil facilities in Shabwa, said he knows the risks he takes as a soldier, but he feels a sense of responsibility in his line of work.  

“It is our national duty [to do our jobs], being targeted for attacks will not hold us back,” he said. Although it does bring down morale if the government doesn’t take action when a soldier is killed, injured or abducted, he added.