Yemen in crusade to stop hit-and-run motorbike assassins

Authorities have impounded 500 illegal motorbikes in hopes of putting end to hit-and-run shootings that have killed dozens of security officers.

SANAA // Yemeni authorities impounded 500 illegal motorbikes in a three-day campaign to put an end to hit-and-run shootings that killed dozens of security officers last year.

"The campaign has succeeded in stopping 500 unlicensed motorbikes and 72 cars without number plates, some of which are suspected to have been used in assassinations," an interior ministry report said, adding that 50 weapons such as Kalashnikovs and other firearms were seized during the crackdown.

"Motorbikes have become a headache for security forces as extremist groups use them to assassinate security officials," General Abdelrahman Hanash, a high-ranking interior ministry official, said yesterday.

The interior ministry says that 40 members of the security forces and four civilians were killed in 2012 in hit-and-run shootings by gunmen on motorbikes.

The Sanaa security chief, Omar Abdelkarim, said that "terrorist groups" have used the unrest in Yemen "to reorganise their ranks and launch a series of hit-and-run assassinations".

There are more than 200,000 motorbikes across Yemen, most of which are unregistered, according to Sanaa police.

Some 103 police patrols took part in the campaign, which began in Sanaa on Saturday, according to the ministry.

Residents said that police checkpoints were set up across the capital at which vehicles and motorbikes without number plates were stopped.

Passersby were also searched for unlicensed weapons in the country where gun ownership has long been a key part of culture.