Yemen's motorcycle murders

Killers on motorcycles were responsible for the murders of 40 military and security officers and four civilians in Yemen during 2012, the interior ministry said yesterday.

A further 21 military officers and nine civilians were injured in attacks involving motorcycles:

"Most of the motorcycle-used crimes were committed in the capital Sana'a with 18 cases, followed by 15 in Lahj province, 10 cases in each of Hadramout and Taiz provinces and six in Dhale province the others were committed in provinces of Aden, Baidha, Abyan and Dammar."

The attacks – usually in the form of drive-by shootings – are mostly blamed on jihadists linked to al-Qaeda.

According to al-Arabiya, the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda recently advised its supporters – especially those travelling in Hadramout, Abyan and Shabwa – to use motorcycles rather than cars, since it is easier to avoid being monitored or arrested. It also recommended travelling "under hazy weather conditions" to reduce the risk of being targeted by drones.

Last November the government launched a campaign against unlicensed motorcycles, threatening to confiscate any that are used illegally.

The move brought protests from poor Yemenis who use unlicensed bikes to carry goods or fee-paying passengers, or simply to travel to work.

Many of the bikes have been smuggled into the country without paying customs duty, which is why they are unregistered. According to one rider, registration including the unpaid customs duty costs 40,000-50,000 riyals ($185-$230) – money that most can ill-afford.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 2 January 2013