Who’s Who: The Game of Assigning Blame
For the past several weeks I have been following the efforst of Shaykh Husayn Abdullah Bahanhan of Al al-Faqih and his attempts to secure the release of eight individual, It appears, according to this Mareb Press story, as though he has finally been successful.
The eight men have been held for nearly two months and were arrested when the Yemeni military went into al-Huta in Shabwa in an attempt to uproot al-Qaeda. Shaykh Husayn has been arguing for almost as long that the eight were innocements caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that they only took shelter in a house (later deemed to be a militant safe house) to avoid the shelling.
This case illustrates, yet again, the difficulties even for the Yemeni government of conducting counterterrorism raids in Yemen. Often the government is unaware of who exactly it holds. It is much easier to just arrest everyone than it is to assign blame and determine who is a militant or who is a member of al-Qaeda. After all, it is not like these guys carry cards – (there are no “card carrying members of al-Qaeda”).
In practice what this means is that by arresting the wrong people the government often invites tribal retaliation that then gets chalked up as al-Qaeda violence, further muddying the waters of an already murky conflict.
Thankfully, this situation was resolved peacefully. Unfortunately, this is more the exception than the rule.