Abu Hamza and the Islamic Army

The Abyan kidnap trial

1. The trial begins

2. The accused

3. Witnesses in the trial: four Yemeni drivers

4. Witnesses in the trial: a soldier and a sheikh

5. Statements from defendants

Witnesses in the kidnap trial: a soldier and a sheikh

FEBRUARY 11, 1999. The next witnesses were a soldier who had been injured during the rescue attempt and an elderly sheikh who had tried to mediate.

The soldier said the kidnappers had opened fire first, but he did not see them kill any of the hostages. The sheikh said the kidnappers had refused to negotiate with local officials. They told him: "We have contacts at a very high level."

The soldier

Ahmad Nasser Muhammad Hisam. Soldier, aged 30, based in Dhamar

(The witness's statement was read)

Witness questioned by the prosecution:

Q. Who started the shooting?

A. The kidnappers

Q. Did you see the kidnappers open fire on the hostages or kill four of them?

A. No.

Q. How long did you stay, waiting in your position, before the freeing of the hostages?

A. Until 10 o'clock.

Q. You said in your statement that the kidnappers split into two groups. Which group opened fire?

A. The first group, which was facing us.

Q. What weapons did the kidnappers fire?

A. They fired bullets, bazookas and Law rockets at us.

Q. Were the kidnappers armed?

A. I found that the first suspect was armed after he gave himself up. I don't know about the others.

Q. Can you say how many kidnappers there were?

A. I can't.

Q. Was a telephone seized along with the kidnappers?

A. I didn't see it.

Q. Are you in the army or the police?

A. The army.

Q. Did you see two groups with your own eyes?

A. Yes.

Q. How many in each group?

A. The first group, five. The second, I don't know.

Q. Do you know any of the suspects here?

A. I know Abu al-Hassan [indicating him].

Q. When were you wounded.

A. In the middle of the operation, by the second group.

Q. After you were wounded, did you stay in position or did you drop out?

A. I dropped out.

The accused were asked if they had any questions for the witness. Abu al-Hassan had none. Huraira asked: "Are you the perpetrator or the victim of a crime?" The soldier replied: "The victim".

The sheikh

Haythmi Muhammad Hussein 'Ashal, aged 68 (a sheikh from Mudiyyah)

The witness said that at 9am on December 29 he had met security officials and offered to negotiate with the kidnappers. They had said they would not oppose it.

Witness questioned by the prosecution:

Q. Can you say how long you spent negotiating with the kidnappers?

A. Between an hour and one-and-a-half hours, approximately.

Q. Are you one of those who went on the first day, or the second?

A. The second day.

Q. What did Muhammad Salih Awlaqi [one of the kidnappers] say to you when he returned from [consulting the other] the kidnappers?

A. He said … "They said 'We don't want anyone, we can't negotiate with anyone. We have contacts at a very high level. The response will come to us at 12 o'clock or 12.15." I didn't understand whether the "high level" was outside or inside [the country?].

Q. Does it mean they refused to negotiate?

A. Yes. They were refusing, they said, because "they can't implement our demands".

A full report of the day's hearing was published in Arabic in al-Ayyam newspaper, issue 540, 13 February, 1999 (page 9).