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Yemen’s Sana’a ‘wages a war’ against motorcycles

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Yemeni authorities announced unprecedented measures to limit the spread of motorcycles after bikers were linked to political, military and security leaders’ assassinations. Moreover motorcycles are being used by al-Qaeda members as a means of transportation that is difficult to be chased by security services.

The Yemeni Interior Ministry said on Thursday that it has directed banning motorcycles with unregistered plates in all Yemeni governorates, and seize vehicles violating Yemen’s traffic law. In an online statement, the ministry confirmed the need to organize daily security and traffic campaigns to arrest the violators.

The ministry called upon the unregistered motorcyclists to regularize their status at the General Directorate of Traffic to avoid being subjected to legal procedures, stressing that motorcycles’ numbers can be found in all traffic departments.

Since the beginning of Yemen’s crisis in 2011, the use of motorcycles spread remarkably in an unprecedented way, doubling traffic jams in Sana’a and in various cities. It also contributed to the increase of traffic victims and accidents; statistics revealed that traffic incidents killed more than 200 people and injured about 1150 others since the start of 2012, due to accidents caused by motorcyclists.

According to security sources, the estimates suggest that the number of motorcycles used as means of transportation within the country has risen from about 100 thousand motorcycles in 2010 to more than 250,000 in the first 9 months of 2012. The same sources indicated the absence of accurate statistics due to the fact that many of these motorcycles are smuggled into Yemen. A large number do not have customs data and operate illegally.

Since the assassination attempt of Dr. Mohamed Abdul Malik Mutawakkil in November 2011 by a motorcycle, repeated operations and assassination attempts targeted politicians, military and intelligence officers were led by armed motorcyclists.

Khaled Kamel, a researcher of security affairs spoke to Al-Arabiya.net and said: “Since the beginning of 2012, 62 assassinations of military, security and intelligence officers have been monitored, 30% of which has been linked to motorcycles, while the rest of the operations were executed through cars bombs and improvised explosive devices.”

Furthermore, Yemen-based “Jihadist al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” recently issued a statement warning its leaders and members in the Yemeni provinces, especially in Hadramout, Abyan and Shabwa, and asked them to take extreme safety measures when traveling, with the increase of U.S. drones unleashed against the organization’s leaders and members.

The statement called for using motorcycles as a transportation method because of their recurrent use due to the ease of driving without being monitored or arrested. al-Qaeda’s statement stressed on members avoiding car travel, unless in urgent cases, and under hazy weather conditions as the likelihood of members being targeted is reduced.

In related context, some expressed hostile attitude towards the government's campaign against motorcycles, stressing it would be unfair for many who would not be able to bear the brunt of the suspicious operations carried out by those who are using such means of transportation.

Economic analyst Mohammad Dibwan told Al Arabiya: “From a security perspective, this plan might be important, but under the pretext of security measures, it will leave tens of thousands of citizens without their only revenue source. Indeed, the political crisis and its disastrous economic repercussions have already forced citizens to buy motorcycles and use them as taxis in order to provide for their daily bread.”