Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

At least 3 dead in grenade attack in Bujumbura

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Inequality, sexism and the movie industry

Read more

ENCORE!

Sienna Miller on motherhood, her new movies and Cannes glamour

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

After the Fall of Ramadi, Palmyra: Did the West Underestimate the Jihadists?

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Migrants and Immigrants: A Global Crisis

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Behind the scenes of French gastronomy

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Protests continue in Burundi as calls mount for election delay

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Burundi: Nkurunziza delays parliamentary polls as clashes continue

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

At least two killed in fresh protests in Bujumbura

Read more

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time.

REPORTERS

REPORTERS

Latest update : 2012-04-23

EXCLUSIVE - YEMEN: Meeting the fighters of Ansar al-Sharia

In the south of Yemen, the town of Jaar is now under Sharia law. Our reporters travelled undercover to Jaar, which is controlled by the fighters of Ansar al-Sharia ("The Partisans of Sharia"), an al Qaeda affiliate.

After long negotiations involving several intermediaries, we are finally given the green light to meet Ansar al-Sharia (the “Partisans of Sharia") in the Arabian Peninsula.

Along with our contact, a young Yemeni named Wajdi, we take a minibus at 7 am to the city of Jaar, renamed Waqar by Ansar al-Sharia. It is located in the province of Abyan, in the south of Yemen.

My female colleague Tatiana has to wear the niqab so as not to attract the attention of the Yemeni soldiers, but also because Ansar al-Sharia demands it. With them, women must be covered from head to foot. We pretend we are married journalists.

The journey lasts three hours. At each army checkpoint, I hide behind a newspaper to avoid being spotted. Foreigners are not allowed to enter this region, and journalists even less so.

On arrival, we meet Fouad, who has a Kalashnikov slung across his shoulders. He is in charge of press relations for Ansar al-Sharia. The 25-year-old welcomes us with a big smile and invites us to lunch. The menu is meat, rice and fizzy drinks.

During our stay, Fouad watches us like a hawk. He mainly tells us about his group’s ideology and their plan to establish Sharia law in the whole of Yemen.

We are not allowed to interview the fighters of Ansar al-Sharia on camera. It is difficult even to film them: each time, security concerns are given. Most of the footage we manage to get of these fighters is filmed undercover.

We are not allowed to meet Abu Hamza, the head of Ansar al-Sharia, again due to security concerns.

After much negotiating, we get the green light to approach the 73 Yemeni soldiers being held hostage by Ansar al-Sharia. But there is one condition: I have to go without my colleague, supposedly because the hostages do not want to see any women. But while being searched, I realise the real reason: there is not a woman in sight. Under Sharia law, men are not allowed to search women.

The location the soldiers are being held is kept secret. I am blindfolded and get into a pick-up truck. We drive for half an hour, and I believe the location is not far from the city. We return the same evening.

We had agreed with Fouad to stay in Ansar al-Sharia’s stronghold for three days. But in the end, we were asked to leave earlier than planned. “Things are going to happen’, he warns us.

The day after we leave, the army checkpoint, which acts as a buffer between the fighters of Ansar al-Sharia and the town, is attacked. 15 people are killed. If we had stayed, it would have been much more difficult to leave.

By Tatiana MASAAD , Noreddine BEZZIOU

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2015-05-21 Thailand

A year after coup, Thai opposition resists junta rule

On May 22 last year, Thailand’s military seized control of the country after months of protests against the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. Since then,...

Read more

2015-05-14 Jacques Chirac

Are there lessons to be learned from Chirac’s foreign policy?

20 years after Jacques Chirac was voted into power, how should we view the foreign policy of a president who famously said "non" to the US war on terror?

Read more

2015-05-08 Colombia

Colombia’s toxic war on drugs

Colombia is one of the world’s largest cocaine-producing countries. To fight coca production and weaken the FARC guerrilla, whose main source of revenue is narcotics trafficking,...

Read more

2015-04-30 Syria

Syria: On the trail of looted antiquities

As the war in Syria enters its fifth year, the trafficking of looted antiquities is adding a new dimension to the tragic conflict. Many Syrian artefacts are smuggled across the...

Read more

2015-04-24 World War I

Saving French soldiers' WWI trench carvings

In 1914, a former underground quarry in Picardy in northern France is requisitioned by the French army. For almost four years, hundreds of soldiers were stationed there. Many...

Read more