BRIEFS

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 37

AL-QAEDA VIDEOTAPES EXECUTION OF SENIOR YEMENI INTELLIGENCE OFFICER AS PROACTIVE MEASURE AGAINST DRONE STRIKES

An al-Qaeda videotape showing the execution of a Yemeni military intelligence chief began circulating throughout Yemen by Bluetooth technology on November 26. The video was produced by al-Malahim Establishment for Media Production, the media wing of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Entitled “The Demise of Traitors 1,” the videotape addressed al-Qaeda’s view of Muslims who “collaborate” with the West before proceeding to give a practical lesson in the fate of such “collaborators” in the form of Lieutenant Colonel Bassam Sulayman Tarbush al-Sharqabi, the intelligence chief for Marib Province, who was captured by al-Qaeda last June.

Though not mentioned explicitly, a large part of the tape appears devoted to warning off Yemenis from providing intelligence to U.S. forces that would allow them to target al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen with missile strikes from Predator drones. Given the tactical success of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen and Saudi Arabia may naturally be concerned about being targeted in a similar manner. Colonel Tarbush was widely believed in Yemen to have provided the intelligence that allowed a U.S. Predator to kill local al-Qaeda leader Ali Qaed Sunian al-Harithi (a.k.a. Abu Ali) in 2002.

The videotape warns of “mercenaries” who collaborated with the Jews and Christians for money. “The lowest and vilest of these collaborators are the spies, who continue to help the enemies of the nation of Islam: the rulers, collaborators and allies of America.” The tape then shows footage of an infrared strobe light of the type used to mark targets for night attacks. Viewers are warned of spies who plant such instruments on targets designated for air strikes.  

Colonel Tarbush, who appears blindfolded at all times in the video, is described as an individual who spied on Muslims and the mujahideen. “He oversees a network of spies, and recruits clan members to spy on Muslims.” Tarbush was an expert in the intricacies of clan politics in Marib region, where he spent the last ten of his 14 years in the security services. His experience also allowed him to build a local intelligence network, though he admits in the video that he has revealed the names of all his agents to al-Qaeda interrogators.  

Clearly under pressure from his questioners, Colonel Tarbush agrees that the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh is a collaborationist government that sets up “security forces with the authority and capabilities to suppress the mujahideen, according to American requests.” He also acknowledges that Yemen’s legal code “violates Shari’a.” Asked if he has any advice for young Yemenis, Colonel Tarbush advises them to avoid being “pulled in by American intelligence and [Israel’s] Mossad.”

After being led before a firing squad of masked men, the image cuts out and only gunfire is heard, followed by footage of the apparently dead body of Colonel Tarbush. China’s Xinhua news agency later said senior Yemeni security officials had confirmed the Colonel’s death (Xinhua, November 26).

The apparent execution of Colonel Tarbush follows an earlier AQAP warning to the “infidel” rulers of Yemen, who “opened bureaus to spy on the mujahideen and even on the Muslims in general” (Audio statement of Shaykh Abu al-Zubayr Adil al-Abbab, Al-Malahim Establishment for Media Production, October 22). A posting on a jihadist website said the execution videotape gave “special solace to all those family members of those mujahideen who were tortured, handicapped and in many cases killed under the supervision of these [security] officials” (ansarnet.info, November 27).

BALOCH NATIONALIST LEADER DISCUSSES CREATION OF A SECULAR AND INDEPENDENT BALOCHISTAN

Baloch leader Hyrbyair Marri recently gave an interview on the independence movement and growing insurgency in the highly strategic and resource rich Pakistani province of Balochistan (Geo News [Karachi], November 26). Hyrbyair seeks a negotiated withdrawal of the Pakistani military from Balochistan, maintaining that Balochistan was an independent country in 1947 until Pakistani forces occupied the region in 1948. Provincial autonomy is rejected as “we do not accept that Balochistan is a province of Pakistan.”

Hyrbyair is the son of Marri tribal chief Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri. His brother, Balach Marri, a reported leader of the Marxist-oriented and Marri-dominated Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), was killed by Pakistani security forces in 2007 (Balochistan Express, November 22, 2007; see also Terrorism Monitor, April 3, 2008). Hyrbyair is a former Balochistan MP (1997-2002) and was a minister in the provincial assembly for two of those years. He fled to the UK in 2002, but was arrested and charged with inciting terrorism in December 2007 (Dawn [Karachi], December 12). Supporters of Hyrbyair claim the arrest came at the request of former Pakistan president General Pervez Musharaff, who demanded action on Balochi nationalists living in exile in the UK as the price of further cooperation in the war on terrorism. An Islamabad daily reported that the new government contributed substantial amounts to Hyrbyair’s defense as part of a program of confidence-building measures with Baloch leaders. Hyrbyair was acquitted on three charges with no decision on a fourth in February 2009 (Crown Prosecution Service Press Statement, March 10).  

Compared to the rest of Pakistan, Balochistan is sparsely populated and poorly developed, but Hyrbyair insists that an abundance of natural resources such as oil and gas will provide the economic backbone for an independent state. Hyrbyair suggests a secular Baloch state may also attract the support of the United States. “Secularism is in the nature of the Baloch people and is a part of the Baloch ethos.”

Hyrbyair rejected the past participation of Baloch politicians in Pakistan’s federal government, describing two former Baloch presidents and one prime minister as “paid employees of the federal government.” Baloch politicians who took government posts may have “wanted to do something for the people of Balochistan, but contrary to that, their participation in the political process consolidated the tyranny of the federal government over Balochistan.”

In response to questions regarding the violence of the independence movement and the targeting of Punjabi civilians, Hyrbyair denies having any influence over the movement, which he claims is run by “local Baloch youth,” though he also claims to have no idea who the movement’s leader is. Asked if the independence movement was financed by India, Hyrbyair replied, “I don’t think that it is true.”  

The development of the massive new Gwadar port in Balochistan is a major point of contention, with Hyrbyair claiming the port will benefit only Pakistan and not Balochistan. The nationalist leader says local leaders who opposed the development were kidnapped and killed by Pakistani intelligence agencies. Hyrbyair denies that the opposition to the port is being funded by Gulf states that will lose business to the modern facilities being built at Gwadar.

The Urdu language interview came only a day after Hyrbyair and other exiled Baloch leaders rejected a proposal from Islamabad designed to end the long-standing insurgency in Balochistan. The offer called for a cessation in military activities, the release of political detainees and a payment of $1.4 billion in gas royalties over 12 years (Reuters, November 25). The “Rahe-i-Haqooq Balochistan” package included a ban on the construction of new military camps in Balochistan, though two existing camps would remain operational (The News [Islamabad], November 24). Hyrbyair described the government’s proposal as “a mockery and a cruel joke” (The News [Islambad]. November 25).

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