U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged support to Yemen’s unity and stability, and has offered to help the Gulf country in its fight against terrorism, reported the country’s official Saba news agency on Monday.
“The security of Yemen is vital for the security of the United States,” the Saba news agency quoted Obama as saying in a letter delivered to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Sunday by John Bernnan, Assistant for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism.
In the letter, Obama pledged to help to help Yemen in “confronting development challenges and supporting reform efforts,” through International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and other donors as well as states of the Gulf cooperation council.
Obama also “hailed the established partnership between the two friendly countries in the field of fighting terrorism,” and pointed out that the “Al-Qaeda organization is a common threat and dangerous to everyone,” the report added.
Yemen, an impoverished nation located on the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, is currently battling a Shiite revolt in the north, a strengthening separatist movement in the south, and a recently intensified al-Qaeda militancy across the country.
The Shiite rebels, known as Huthis after their late commander Hussein Badr Eddin al-Huthi, operate from their stronghold in Saada in the far northern mountains. The Huthis are in rebellion in northern Yemen to restore the Zaidi imamate that was overthrown in a coup in 1962.
The Huthis belong to the Shiite Zaydi sect and are presently being led by Abdul Malik, the brother of Hussein Badr Eddin al-Huthi who was killed along with a number of his followers in 2004 during a battle with Yemeni military and police forces.
In addition to the Shiite rebels, Yemen is facing a strengthening separatist movement in its southern region, where many complain of discrimination. The separatist movement gained momentum a couple of years ago, when former southern military officials demanded higher pension payments after being forced into compulsory retirement.
The northern and southern regions of Yemen were two separate countries until they united in 1990. However, a civil war broke out just 4 years after unification when the south tried unsuccessfully to break away.
Yemen has also witnessed a series of attacks against foreign tourists and westerners in the recent past. The attacks, prompted mostly by calls by al-Qaeda leaders to attack non-Muslim tourists in Yemen, have adversely affected tourism in the impoverished Arab country.
In March, four South Korean tourists and their Yemeni guide were killed in a bomb attack in the historical city of Shibam in Hadramawt Province. Later, a suicide bomb attack targeted a convoy carrying a Korean team sent to investigate the Shibam attack, but no one was hurt in the explosion. Following the attacks, South Korea advised its citizens to leave Yemen.