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November 9, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 9, 2012 in Derna, rumors of Jih00t, tist training camps abound By Michel Srs The Media Line Fadil gazed oat atthe fields surrounding [is farm. "It's a lot different here than in the deserts of Iraq. There we had nothing to do but fight Americans, but here we can grow something," he says. Fadil was one of hundreds of Libyans from the eastern city of Derna to travel to Iraq during the American occupa- tion. Though he has not put down his rifle, today he uses it for more noble endeavors - to enforce the peace. Fadil and many other former jihad- ists have joined the Libyan security services that sprang up after the 2011 revolution, cooperating with the NATO forces that toppled Muam- mar Gaddafi. But though most of the former fighters now admire America and its European allies for their contribution, a small fringe group continues to spew venom against the West and may be training in the nearby Libyan desert, preparing for an attack. Though Fadil frowns on such extremism today, .it wasn't long ago that the United States was his main enemy. After watching Arab news channels like AI Jazeera beaming a constant stream of American attacks in Iraq, Fadil decided he had to defend Muslim honor. "I couldn't just watch as Arabs were being slaughtered," he recalls. He was not alone. Records discovered by the U.S. military at an al-Qaida safe house revealed that more foreign suicide bombers came from Derna than any other town in the region. As Fadil spoke outside a downtown mosque, a group of men in their 20s entered the courtyard. After exchang- ing short pleasantries, Fadil pointed in their direction. "You see him," he said, mo- tioning to one with a short beard that hugged his face. "He went to Iraq too. They are everywhere." The Iraqi veterans are still here, but their views have changed. Today they no longer want to fight American forces but insteadwant to build their country with American aid and technical expertise. "We did our share of killing," says Faris, another Iraq vet- eran. "We need to move on now. Our country needs us more than the Muslim world does." Around Derna the for- mer jihadists are admired by youths just coming into their own, who respect both their willingness to take on a superpower and the con- tributions they made to the Libyan revolution. "I want to be a thuwwar, just like you," a boy not much older than 10 says, using the Arabic term for rebel fighter as Fadil's gang passes him. "This is our home and we need to make it a better place forthem," Fadil says later that night in a pickup truck during his patrol round. When the revolution broke out in February 2011, Fadil threw stones at government buildings. Later he helped raidweapons storehouses and drove west with thousands of others to fight Gaddafi's forces. Today he has returned to Derna as a member of the lo- cal security service. "We can't move from battle to battle and fight forever," he says. But a small group of Derna jihadis is doing just that. They have coalesced around Sufyan Ben Qumu, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate who was once Osama Bin Laden's cha.uffeur. Locals like Fadil prefer not to talk about Ben Qumu, who they consider to be an embarrassment. But Libyan security officials in Benghazi are more than willing to share their opin- ions. They believe he may have played a rolein the Sept. 11 attack that killed Ameri- can Ambassador Chris Ste- vens and three others. Ben Qumu's disappearance from Derna in the days following the attack only added to the mystery surrounding his activities. "He has links to extrem- ists," says a Libyan intel- ligence official. "There have been signs they were plotting something, but we were not able to figure out what they were up to exactly." American intelligence of- ficials believe jihadists have been running a camp outside Derna where they have been training a new generation of fighters in combat skills and indoctrinating them with extremist ideas. But when a Libyan working for an inter- national media organization visited a camp outside the city several months ago, all he found was some teenagers playing in the sand. "They didn't look like the bad ji- hadists we were told about," he said. But with Libyarife with ru- mors that foreign extremists are pouring into the country, all eyes are on the country's jihadist capital of Derna. And that is what troubles fighters like Fadil, who have buried their hate and radicalism. Houthis gaining power and influence in Yemen ByAbdurrahnan Shamlan The Media Line SANA'A, Yemen--The Iran-backed Shiite Houthi Movement's increasing sup- port throughout Yemen is triggering concerns among the country's nnajority Sunni population. The Houthi Movement, based in the northern gov- ernorate of Sa'adah that bor- ders with Saudi Arabia, was founded in the mid-1990s by the late Hussein BadrAl-Din AI-Houthi, who had studied in Tehran. Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, well-known for his tactic of turning fac- tions and groups against each other as he bolstered his rule, allegedly initially backed the group in order to neutralize the radical Sunnis based in the Sa'adah district. The Houthi insurgents have endured six devastating wars against the Yemeni gov- ernment, the latest of which was in 2009, when SaudiAra- bian warplanes carried out intensive air strikes against the rebels' hideouts. Many Houthi leaders were killed during the battles, including the group's founder while Yemeni troops were trying LET MY 41 YEARS OF INSURANCE EXPERIENCE REVIEW YOUR COVERAGES ANDDESIGN A PACKAGE THAT PROTECTS YOUR BUSINESS BY MEETING YOUR SPECIAL NEEDS! 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Mother of 3 sons who graduated from JCC Pre-School & Jewish Academy of Orlando (K-8) NO W A CCEPTINd NEW PA TIENT5 TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT, CALL 407-345-9929 OR VISIT WWW.PE RSONALPEDS.COM CURRENT&PAST PA TIENT5 /HA Y REQUEST TO HA VE THEIR RECORD5 TRANSFERRED TO HER NEW OFFICE Patient records may be transferred by contacting Personal Pediatrics at 407-345-9929 A medical records release and transfer form can be found at www.personalpeds.com VISIT AND "LIKE" WWW.FACEBOOK COI/MAXINESlLVERMANMD to arrest him in 2004. When the successful revo- lutions in Egypt and Tunisia in 2011 set off massive protests against the former regime, the Houthis took ad- vantage of the unrest. They seized control of the entire Sa'adah province and started to expand into neighboring provinces. The Iran-backed group supported and ef- fectively participated in the massive protests that suc- cessfully overthrew Saleh. Mabkout Nahshal, a tribal chief from the neighboring Hajjah province, confirmed to The Media Line that Houthi followers are "now in total control' of Sa'adah, the majority of [the adja- cent] Al-Jawf [governorate], around 40 percent of Hajjah and swaths of land in Amran province." Reflecting their expansion nationwide, posters of the Houthis' infamous slogans stating: "God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, a curse on the Jews," can be seen everywhere in many Yemeni provinces, including the capita l, Sana'a; they are on mosques' exterior walls, at main intersections, at the entrances to markets, on shops" gates. Abdusalam Mohammed, chairman of Abaad Studies and Research Center, told The Media Line that though the militant group might not currently pose a serious threat to the U.S. and its regional ally Saudi Arabia, it could present a grave danger in the future. The Houthi Movement has signed agreements'and formed alliances with some Yemeni political groups, including the Southern Movement. This underscores concerns that Iran seeks to consolidate its regional presence through its Yemeni allies, he said. Both the Southern Move- ment, a militant group calling for independence for south Yemen, and the Houthis are allegedly backed by Tehran. The two groups recently signed a coopera- tion agreement. "Iran is seeking to control the strategic Bab El-Mandeb Strait.connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden through its allies in the country," Mr. Mohammed said. "In light of the current events shaking its biggest re- gional ally, Syria, Iran is look- ing to minimize its losses and to maintain its regional role by creating new alliances in the region. Also, after United Arab Emirates (UAE) vessels managed in the past few years to bypass the Strait of Hormuz, Tehran has started to think of a more effective way to hold control over the regional maritime lanes." Iran has repeatedly warned the U.S. that it would close the Strait of Hormuz if its nuclear facilities were sub- jected to any attack. "IfTehran somehow man- ages to control both strategic straits, Iran's capability to prevent the world from ob- taining oil will be scarier," he cautioned. However, analyst Hassan Al-Haifi, an expert on the Zaidi Shiite sect, believes "Houthis pose no immediate threat to either Saudi Arabia or the United States, as long as the Saudis stop sending hundreds of Salafis to wage a proxy war on the Houthis." According to Al-Haifi, Riyadh has contracted Ye- meni commanders and tribal chiefs to wage war against the Houthis, and is launch- ing a campaign of inciting friction between Yemen's dif- ferent democratic factions. Al-Haifi told The Media Line that American drones and other intelligence ve- hicles and equipment are currently being used to monitor the movement of Houthis in Saadah. All Al-Amad, a high- ranking leader in the Houthi Movement, dismissed the notion that Iran is seeking to control the Bab EI-Mandeb Strait as a baseless allega- tion. He told The Media Line that the Houthi faction and Southern Movement signed agreements because his group--unlike the other political entities--did not stand behind the former regime when it waged war against South Yemen in 1994. A1-Haifi shared Al-Amad's thinking and added: "It is natural that such common disillusionment and disap- pointment from such an extremely oppressive regime to come to common grounds for waging their struggle toward liberty and justice." "The Houthi Movement does not pose any threat to Saudi Arabia at' all. We are "bound together with the Saudi people, especially those from areas close to Yemen, by the same tradi- tions, beliefs and ideologies," AI-Amad said, adding that the group opposes, nonethe- less, the Saudi royM family, which, according to him, tries to sow chaos in Yemen. He claimed that the Houthis managed to secure the Yemen-Saudi border bet- terhan the government did. "Since we took control of Sa;adah, the border has be- come safer after it was a con- duit for smuggling drugs such as hashish and other kinds of prohibited goods," he said. Speaking about Houthis' expansion in the country, A1- Amad said that what has been perceived as an expansion is actually an increase in the amount of freedom of expres- sion granted to Yemenis. "The revolution against the former regime has boosted the freedom of ex- pression in Yemen. Hence, many people started voicing their views freely, something they were not able to do dur- ing Saleh's rule," he said. However, he admitted that his group has recently been able to garner many supporters and gain more popularity, attributing that to their "steadfast positions supportingYemeni interests and to our refusal to compro- mise the revolution's goals." Mohammed believes that the upcoming national dia- logue conference to be held in mid-November represents the best way for the govern- ment to reach agreements with the rebellious groups, including the Houthis. The conference is apart of the U.S.-backed, Gulf monar- chies-drafted proposal that saw the former president peacefully relinquish power to his long-time deputy, Abd Rabbuh Mansur AI-Hadi. Mohammed concluded: "If the Houthis refuse to. renounce violence and hand over areas under their con- trol in the national dialogue, then the government will have to use force to regain control of the areas seized by the Houthis."