Yemen’s security forces have repeatedly orchestrated terror attacks within Yemen in order to manipulate US and international perceptions, the most wanted fugitive in September’s terror attack on the US Embassy in Sana’a said in an interview Tuesday.
Hamza Ali Saleh al Dhayani (also Aldhaini, al Dhajani) is a prime suspect in the suicide attack on the Sept. 17 attack on the US Embassy that killed 16, including an American citizen. Yemen also named al Dhayani as a suspect in March’s mortar attack on the US Embassy.
Officials earlier announced Dhayani was the recruiter and driving instructor for the suicide car bomber who murdered eight elderly Spanish tourists in Mareb in July 2007. Dhayani is Mareb under the protection of Jahm tribe and granted the interview to Mareb Press after taking several security precautions.
“I am ready to prove the reality that some attacks were planned in co-ordination and agreement of the Political Security and its agents to gain foreign support and to confirm to America that they (the Yemeni state) launch war against terrorism,” Dhayani said in the explosive interview.
Yemen’s Political Security Organization (PSO) is an internal intelligence arm that reports directly to President Saleh. It is responsible for much of the regime’s efforts to stifle the free press and silence journalists, political opposition, and critics. The force is seeded with Salafists and al Qaeda sympathizers and has absorbed numerous “reformed” al Qaeda operatives.
Galib al Qamish, the head of the PSO, regularly negotiates with representatives of al Qaeda to reach mutually beneficial agreements. Some analysts have long postulated that the PSO deploys militants within Yemen for political ends. Yemen’s military has utilized extremists to train tribal paramilitary forces in Yemen’s Sa’ada war. Dhayani’s interview is the first open source collaboration of theories that the Yemeni state orchestrates terror attacks to gain international sympathy and aid.
The accusations came in context of a warning that the Yemeni security forces were gearing up to target Mareb tribal leaders and social figures under the cover of al Qaeda. Many of the Mareb tribes have a history of opposition to President Saleh’s Sanhan tribe. Dhayani asked the targeted figures to contact him, so he could provide details of the planned operations.
Dhayani said September’s assault on the US embassy was perpetrated by some would-be jihadists who were prevented from traveling to Iraq. The Yemeni government benefited from the attack by “reviving its role in fighting terror and its claim to be on the front line,” he said. Yemen was able to “correct its tarnished reputation”, and gained additional international support after warnings that Saudi and UAE embassies were future targets for al Qaeda.
The US embassy attack was a “revenge operation” for the torture prevalent in Yemeni prisons. Dhayani met some former Guantanamo inmates while incarcerated in a Political Security prison. Conditions at the PSO prison were much worse, he said, than those afforded in American custody. Independent reports and witness testimony corroborate the widespread practice of torture by Yemeni security forces.
Dhayani alleged the recent spate of terror attacks in Yemen were not the work of al Qaeda, noting Osama bin Laden prohibited attacks within Yemen and focused jihadist efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dhayani traveled to Afghanistan for Jihad in 1999 when he was 16 and stayed until the collapse of the Taliban. Yemenis were frequently in bin Laden’s inner circle, and some remain in direct or indirect contact. Other Yemenis with personal relationships with bin Laden, including Abu al Fida and Abu Jindal, also assert that a component of bin Laden’s central plan includes a restriction on attacks within Yemen.
In the July 2007, a suicide car bomber attacked a convoy of Spanish tourists at an ancient temple in Mareb. Yemeni officials alleged Dhayani was the driving instructor for the bomber. Dhayani refuted the charge, saying he is unable to drive and employs a driver himself. Security forces know that he is innocent and that he and his family were in Wadi Abida Valley preceding the attack where he was searching for work, Dhayani claimed. The official statements in 2007 named Wadi Abida as the terror cell’s hide-out.
The Gulf Research Center identified Dhayani as the leader of the Yemen Soldiers Brigade, the group “This group is responsible for the majority of operations over the past two years,” the center noted. “Since the beginning of this year, ‘Kataeb al Jund al Yemen’ has released a number of statements claiming responsibility for many operations, including targeting oil installations, government buildings, the Hadda compound used by western residents, and the US and Italian embassies.” The quality of the Yemen Soldiers Brigade’s attacks have been “poor,” the Gulf Research Center said, noting the group has a “lack of battle and planning experience, technical skills, training, and the lack of resources.”
Dhayani said of the dozens of attacks in Yemen over the last two years, some are “reactions by those young people who suffered from torture in prisons, in addition to, some of it was made by the security apparatuses and its agents.”
For a treatment of opposing views of the state’s possible complicity in terror attacks, see Al Qaeda in Yemen: Mercenaries or Terrorists?