Tribal leaders and local residents of the Yemeni city of Radaa have increased pressure on al-Qaeda fighters who are attempting to declare an Islamic emirate in the city.
Tribesmen in the city's seven directorates have created a security fence around their respective areas to protect them from further encroachment by al-Qaeda and to cut off the supply of arms and armed fighters into the area, officials told Al-Shorfa.
Sheikh Ali al-Mansoury, deputy administrator of the al-Baidaa province for Radaa affairs, told Al-Shorfa that each tribe was committed to protecting their boundaries. His tribe was guarding the government building in the city.
The city's tribes control several government institutions that are located outside the central market and the Maidan district. These include the central hospital, the Co-operative and Agricultural Credit Bank, the Yemen Commercial Bank and a government compound that houses several government offices.
Al-Qaeda controls the section of the Maidan district where the Yemen Bank for Reconstruction and Development is located as well as the security headquarters, the Baghdadia mosque and the Ameriya mosque. Al-Qaeda fighters first stormed parts of the city on January 14th.
Al-Mansoury said that during negotiations between the tribesmen and Tariq al-Thahab, "the emir of al-Qaeda in Radaa", al-Thahab demanded the creation of a national council to govern Radaa according to sharia law as a condition for al-Qaeda's withdrawal from the city. He also stipulated that council members be elected from the seven directorates and that a governor and a head of security should be appointed.
"The Radaa tribes rejected this proposal because Yemen is a democratic country governed by the ballot box and one that allows equal opportunities for everyone," he said. "Individuals who would like to run for office have to declare their candidacy and be part of the democratic process and not occupy the historical sites and monuments in order to control Radaa."
Al-Mansoury said al-Qaeda fighters now control about one-fourth of the city, especially the old city where the ruins and historical sites are located. He added that the terrorist group has cut off all roads leading to the area under their control.
"Some of the checkpoints the tribesmen established at the city's entrances constitute a blockade against armed persons or weapons entering or leaving the city. We are willing to hold al-Qaeda operatives captive if they do not respond to demands to evacuate the city peacefully," he said.
According to al-Mansoury, al-Thahab is a member of the Qifa tribe, and al-Qaeda controls one of the city entrances that is close to where the tribe resides. Some of the areas under the local tribesmen's control have now been handed over to Yemeni forces, including the eastern entrance to Radaa, which leads to the capital of al-Baidaa as well as areas located on the Sanaa- al-Baidaa road.
"Al-Qaeda members are telling people they want to establish God's sharia in Radaa, but they are deceiving people because there are peaceful and democratic ways of achieving this in Yemen," he said.
Sheikh Ali al-Tairi, leader of the al-Arsh tribe, told Al-Shorfa the tribes in Radaa are planning a meeting to discuss ways to protect the city and eliminate al-Qaeda, either by imposing a debilitating blockade on the organisation's members or by outright attack.
"We do not want the Zinjibar scenario to be repeated in Radaa, and we want to avoid a state of war and conflict in the city," al-Tairi said, adding that the meeting's objective was to identify a unified strategy.
Local residents formed committees to protect their neighbourhoods and government institutions from any expansion by al-Qaeda, according to Abdullah Idriss, leader of the General People's Congress Party in Radaa. The committees were also charged with protecting citizens, their homes and their belongings.
Several confrontations between local residents and al-Qaeda members resulted in casualties on both sides, Idriss said.
Idriss told Al-Shorfa at least five people were killed, including two al-Qaeda fighters. Also, eight others were injured in clashes last Saturday in several areas of the city.