Yemen tribal leaders not playing ball with govt. in handing over Qaeda operatives

Sanaa, Nov 13 (ANI): Yemeni tribal leaders are reportedly refusing to support their government to root out terrorism, claiming that handing over local al-Qaeda operatives and their American born spiritual leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, would be an offence to their customs.

Refusing to lend support in handing over the al-Qaeda members, sheikhs from the al-Qaeda heartlands in the country's central provinces said that President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government had not done enough to bring development to their impoverished regions, making them fertile breeding grounds for disaffected radicals.

"There's no discussion with the government, nothing. What al-Qaeda are doing is very bad and against Islam. If we had someone from al-Qaeda we would not accept him but we would not give him to the government either," the Telegraph quoted Sheikh Ahmed Shuraif, leader of the Bani Dhabyan, one of Yemen's most important tribes, as saying.

Washington officials have confirmed that spy planes are being used to hunt down al-Qaeda leaders in the country, but added that they were reluctant to authorise more air strikes because of the fear they would further al-Qaeda's aim of uniting Muslims in Yemen and abroad against the West.

Although the government claims that leaders of the Awalik tribe of Shabwa province have agreed to hand over militants there, including al-Awlaki, Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Awlaki, the tribe's leader, has issued a statement saying that while the tribe stands against terrorism, it is up to government forces to arrest Awlaki.

He further declined to discuss Awlaki's whereabouts.

"Of course there are some al-Qaeda militants protected by tribes.

But even if Awlaki is with the Awalik tribe, it is a big tribe. He has more than 100 people protecting him," Sheikh Ahmed added. (ANI)

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