Yemeni Assassinations: Prelude to Western Oil War

Yemen: The Last Lunch

Al Jazeera (2019)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the 1977 assassination of North Yemen president Ibrahim al-Hamdi. The latter, who came to power in a 1974 bloodless coup, was working on reuniting North and South Yemen, as well as reducing the country’s dependence on Saudi Arabia.

Prior to World War I, Yemen was divided between the British and Ottoman empires. North Yemen achieved independence in 1972, South Yemen in 1967. With a Marxist government, the latter had close ties to the Soviet Union.

Owing to lack of evidence, no charges were ever laid for al-Hamdi’s murder. Al-Hamdi had received advanced warnings that his military chief of staff Ahmad bin Hussein al-Ghashmi was planning to assassinate him. Al-Hamdi, who regarded al-Ghashmi as his closest friend, dismissed them.

Bodyguards last saw Al-Hamdi and his brother alive entering al-Ghashmi’s home for lunch on October 11, 1977. Hours later their bodies were found in a remote location along with the bodies of two French prostitutes/spies. According to French intelligence records, al-Ghashmi recruited the two French women to discredit al-Hamdi. Both French and US intelligence files blame Saudi Arabia for the assassination.

In addition to al-Ghashmi, long time president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Saudi Arabia and tribal leaders who opposed Yemeni reunification are also considered potential suspects.

At the time Saudi Arabia, which still views Yemen as a Saudi colony, openly opposed al-Hamdi’s presidency and policies.*

Al-Ghashmi, who assumed the presidency after Al Hamdi’s murder, would also be assassinated eight months later. Saleh, who succeeded him, openly blamed Saudi Arabia for al-Hamdi’s death.

Saleh’s 33 year presidency would end in 1990 when he, too, was assassinated. This was the same year North and South Yemen were unified (until South Yemen seceded in 1994).


*In her new book The Crash of Flight 3804: A Lost Spy, a Daughter’s Quest, and the Deadly Politics of the Great Game for Oil, Charlote Dennett suggests Yemen’s oil reserves exceed those of the entire Persian Gulf

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