Yemen wants tougher laws against kidnaps, unrest
Sanaa, July 28, 2009
Yemen's government has urged parliament to pass tougher security and gun-control laws, saying unrest and kidnappings of Westerners were straining the economy of the poor Arab state.
Yemen, a mountainous Arabian Peninsula country of 23 million, has been battling a wave of kidnappings and al Qaeda attacks, as well as a Shi'ite Muslim rebellion in its north and rising secessionist sentiment in the south over marginalisation.
The violence has raised Western fears that Yemen could become a new haven for Islamist militants on the border with Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter.
'Weapons are a real problem for national unity, investment, the economy and tourism ... and you MPs have a responsibility to act,' Deputy Prime Minister Rshad al-Alimi told parliament.
He urged parliament to pass a law proposed by the government several years ago to criminalise unlicensed weapons and carrying arms in public, as well as limiting the number of bodyguards.
Southern protesters, some demanding secession, had fired mortars at security forces in clashes last week which killed at least eight people at an opposition gathering, he said.
Parliament is controlled by pro-government deputies, but analysts say many MPs have tribal backgrounds and have resisted efforts at limiting traditional rights to bear arms.
'Kidnappings have direct and indirect impacts on tourism and the economy too,' Alimi said, urging deputies to also pass a law introducing harder punishments and increasing the authorities' powers in the fight against abductions and armed attacks.
Kidnappings of Western tourists or workers by disgruntled tribes seeking ransom or concessions from the government have been frequent in Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries.
On Friday (July 24), Shi'ite rebels killed three soldiers and abducted another after ambushing their vehicle in north Yemen. – Reuters