SANAA, Yemen — In the crowded Shumaila market in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, on May 28, 2005, Faysal Abdulaziz al-Arifi took a few trembling steps past buzzing stalls and garbage quickly accumulating on the street's edge.
Nasr al-Faqih, a police officer in the market, noticed Arifi's nervous looks and approached him. Faqih tried to get close to him, but Arifi pulled away. When the policeman asked him why, Arifi whispered, "I can't tell you on the street. The cell is watching me."
Under interrogation, Arifi confessed that he had been on his way to the central United Nations office in Sanaa, where he had been ordered to detonate an explosives belt hidden under his clothes -- a belt his mother had fastened to his body. But the teenager admitted that he was not ready to die and went looking for somewhere to turn himself in.
This story was related by Abdu al-Faqih, Nasr's brother and an officer in Yemen's Defense Ministry. According to Abdu, however, there was an even more disturbing twist to the young man's suicide mission: The cell he claimed was watching him was an al Qaeda unit operating in the capital whose membership included officers from the elite Republican Guard, Central Security forces, and the army's 1st Armored Division.
The response from authorities when Faqih reported his capture of a suicide bomber targeting the United Nations was negligible, according to Abdu, who has followed his brother's case closely. Officers in the security apparatuses refused to take Faqih's report seriously and ignored claims of al Qaeda infiltration into the ranks of Yemen's armed forces.
Months later, the attacks began. First, a gang attacked Faqih with a dagger as he left a Sanaa restaurant. Then men fired at him on his way home from duty. Finally, returning to Sanaa from his home village on a snaking mountain highway, Faqih's taxi was pushed off the road by a pursuing Hilux pickup truck. Faqih's vehicle overturned, and he lost his right eye and suffered a crushed jaw in the crash.
Yemen's Interior Ministry refused to pay for treatment of Faqih's injuries. Sanaa's prosecution court never published the findings of its investigations of the attempts on Faqih's life, and when his family pressed them for information, they were met with a firm response: His case had been closed.
Abdu is convinced of the complicity of the Yemeni security apparatuses in the attempts on his brother's life. "I accuse members of al Qaeda and their operatives inside the security organizations of being behind the assassination attempts," he seethed, looking over a pile of his brother's records in a living room in Sanaa's Old City. He pointed to the traffic report of his brother's accident, which states that Faqih sustained only basic injuries despite his now permanent disabilities, which Abdu believes is a sign that authorities wanted to keep the accident as low profile as possible by minimizing the damage.