Attack on website

Attack on website

by Brian Whitaker 

Originally published in Middle East International, 
21 January 2005

Unidentified assailants launched a gun and grenade attack on the heaquarters of a website owned by Yemen's ruling party, the General People's Congress, on January 13.

The office was badly damaged and two journalists were reportedly injured by flying glass. At least four staff were in the building at the time.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack but the website, almotamar.net, blamed "people from al-Eman university", a private institution in Sana'a run by Sheikh Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, leader of the militant wing of the opposition Islah party.

The attack came about a week after the website received anonymous emails threatening to kill its editor and his "mercenary" staff because of an "infidel campaign" against al-Eman university and Zindani. 

Almotamar had earlier published an article saying that a "military wing" at the university was planning to stir up violence over the government's plans for economic reform. 

"The occasion is economic reform, but they are really against the relationship between the US government and the Yemeni government," the website's editor, Nizar al-Abbadi, told the Yemen Times. "They called us unbelievers and threatened to attack us.

"We have special sources inside al-Eman university, so we got the information inside the university. It was confirmed that they are becoming armed and preparing to act against the economic reforms."

Al-Eman is a religious university with about 6,000 students which the United States accuses of having links to terrorism. In was briefly shut down by the Yemeni authorities in 2002. One of the concerns was that it attracted large numbers of students from abroad who might then be drawn into al-Qaeda circles.

Last year the US Treasury imposed financial sanctions on Zindani, saying that he "has a long history of working with Bin Laden, notably serving as one of his spiritual leaders". It said Zindani had actively recruited for al-Qaeda's terrorist training camps and played a role in the purchase of weapons for al-Qaeda and others. 

American officials have also said that Zindani was implicated in the suicide attack on USS Cole in October 2000 and that a man who killed three American missionaries at a Baptist hospital in Yemen two years ago was a student from al-Eman university.

Zindani denies all these allegations and has called on the Yemeni government to pursue his quarrel with the US in the International Court of Justice. He is offering to reward the Yemeni government with 10% of the proceeds from a treatment for diabetes, hepatitis and HIV/AIDS that he claims to have invented.

Fears of renewed violence in Yemen prompted the closure of the British embassy in Sana'a on January 5. It reopened 10 days later.

The British government said the move followed "specific information that terrorists are in the final stages of planning attacks against British targets and other western targets in Yemen." It advised British citizens to be particularly vigilant in places frequented by foreigners, such as hotels.