Suspected Al-Qaeda backer at Yemen peace talks in Geneva

17th June 2015, Comments 0 comments

A man who is on the US blacklist of suspected Al-Qaeda supporters is part of a delegation representing Yemen's government in exile at UN-hosted peace talks in Geneva.

Abdel Wahab al-Humayqani, who heads the hardline Islamist Al-Rashad party in Yemen, took part in the opening of the peace talks in the Swiss city on Monday, where he was photographed with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

His name also figures on a list of delegates of the government in exile, as a representative of Al-Rashad.

Supporters of this party are battling on the ground in Yemen against the Zaydite Shiite Ansarullah rebel group and its allies, adding to the chaos raging on the ground.

The UN has been scrambling to get the Geneva peace talks moving and end the bloodshed in Yemen, with both the exiled government and the Iran-backed Yemeni rebels accusing each other of trying to sabotage the process.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict between Iran-backed Shiite rebels and troops loyal to Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia in February.

Global powers are keen for a speedy resolution, fearing the growing power of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni branch of the jihadist network that has taken advantage of the chaos to seize territory.

Humayqani was added to the US blacklist in December 2013, accused of "providing financial support to and acting on behalf of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."

The controversial figure runs a Yemen-based charity called Al-Ihsan, which receives funds from Gulf countries, and especially Saudi Arabia.

Humayqani, who comes from the central Baida province where AQAP is highly influential, had denied the US allegations when he was placed on the blacklist.

"I deny these accusations and I am ready to appear in front of Yemeni justice to refute these accusations," he told AFP at the time.

According to Yemeni sources, he was detained for a few months before his party was created in 2012 over allegations of connections to Al-Qaeda.

An analyst close to the Geneva talks said the government in exile wanted to include him in its delegation to recognise the role played by the Salafists in the fight against the rebels and their allies in the country.

But the source, who asked to remain anonymous, also hinted his inclusion could mark a way for the government's main supporter Saudi Arabia to thumb its nose at Washington.

Relations between the two allied countries have become shaky as the United States and other world powers close in on a nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia's regional nemesis Iran.

Riyadh has presented the Saudi-led bombing campaign in neighbouring Yemen as a war against Iran's growing influence in the region.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen meanwhile confirmed Tuesday that its chief, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, was killed in a US drone strike, in the heaviest blow to the jihadist network since the death of Osama bin Laden.

© 2015 AFP

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