Yemenity2010's Blog

New Map Showing Drone Strike History in Yemen

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 08/08/2013

Drones. Or, if you use a more formal term, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, have been a topic of discussion for some time now. The reason being its frequent use by primarily the United States in its so called ‘War on Terror’. Yemen is one of the places where the method has been employed most of all. How much, exactly? There is a recently published interactive map of probable US ”drone, missile and other air strikes” against suspected terrorists in Yemen since 2002, as reported by PBS Frontline News, an American public service broadcaster. Red dots are indicating where the strikes are believed to have been carried out. There are 98 of them, so far. The accompanying blue dots show suspected terror plots, attributed mostly to AQAP, the branch of al Qaeda operating in Yemen from the year 2000 and on. There are 19 of those on the map. So far.

Interactive Drone Strike Map from PBS Frontline News

Another Terror Alert in Yemen – How Serious This Time?

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Politik by yemenity2010 on 06/08/2013

kullarnaharögonTerror alert in Yemen – again. Apparently there is a threat real enough that the US strongly encourages its own citizens in Yemen to leave the country. It’s not the first time, or the first time several embassies close down temporarily. But some reports suggest the capital Sana’a ”is experiencing unprecented security measures” (BBC).

It reminds me of the time I spent there, and maybe most of all the very first week, in the beginning of 2010. The so-called underwear bomber from Nigeria had tried to blow up an American plane in late december, instructed by Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen, it was reported. There had also been strikes from government forces (or someone supporting them from the outside, possibly) against suspected terrorists in Yemen.

I was just settling into the situation and risk assessment was not really up to me at that point. I simply didn’t know enough. But my superiors in Taiz had to start interpreting the signs and possible evacuation was discussed when several embassies in Sana’a (as I remember it, the US, French and British ones) closed down. As it turned out, they opened again within a week or so. But it was enough time that I began to realize that this project could prove to be the shortest job I’d ever had. That week hundreds of mostly young people lined up to register for new courses at the institute where I was expected to eventually add some more cultural activities (the job description was vague, but also intriguing). There were probably no direct threats to the institution itself, though it was one of the foreign installations in the city. But there were rumours concerning a young man, reportedly carrying some kind of explosive device in a belt, walking around town but no one seemed to know if he had a specific target in mind or not. Happily, things calmed down and things gradually took on a rhythm with daily routines; planning, buying groceries, doing laundry, trying out the Yemeni cuisine, visiting the prison and trying to realize different creative ideas little by little. And getting to know people, not least.

Something I realize clearly while re-reading my blog posts from that time, is that I was reluctant to deal too explicitly with sensitive political issues. Simply put, I was advised to be cautious and it was common sense to follow that advice, especially at these early stages. Yemen is really not a place you can easily sum up and evaluate in a short while. And a lot has happened these last years, such as the ‘Spring’ process taking off soon after I left in January 2011. Sadly, the Taiz area which a few years ago was considered one of the safest in Yemen, doesn’t seem so secure anymore, at least not for foreigners – according to most available sources I know of.MoskéSanaa1

So, how serious is the terror threat this time? We’ll see. I will definitely not try to make any predictions, especially not from a distance… Or to quote the final sentences of the book ”The Woman Who Fell from the Sky” by Jennifer Steil: ”The only way to stand a chance of knowing what is really going on in Yemen is to be there. And even then the truth is elusive”.

More on the topic can be found at Al Jazeera English, Al Arabiya, CNN and Yemen Times.

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Swedish explorer presently crossing Yemen by camel

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 30/07/2012

Yemen at the present time is not considered a safe place for foreigners. The city where I spent 2010 (Taiz) seems to have changed a lot in that respect, for example, and few foreigners remain. I remember reading about explorer and fellow Swede Mikael Strandberg some time ago, maybe when I was actually in the country. He was planning to cross Yemen by camel, but preparations seemed to take longer than expected. Now he is on his way through the struggling nation and recently he was interviewed by the Yemen Times. According to the Yemeni newspaper he now prefers to be called Ibn Battuta, referencing a famous Arabian explorer from the 14th century. He has also supposedly named his daughter after the likewise famous, mythical Yemeni queen Bilquis, a k a the Queen of Sheba.

For Mikael Strandberg (I will continue calling him that) the biggest challenge so far seems to be the heat and the need to consume copious amounts of water along the way. He describes the Yemeni people as being friendly, helpful and generous and claims that one of his goals is to spread a more positive image, provide a different perspective from the conflict-ridden country.
– Yemen is not only war, Al-Qaeda, poverty or starvation. There are many nice things in this country, he is quoted by Yemen Times as saying.
So far he hasn’t been bothered by anyone and he continues to feel safe. However, he comments on some of the problems that preoccupies him.
– The unnecessary poverty and unnecessary inequality and injustice; there is enough money and resources in Yemen to be exploited for all Yemenis.
Strandberg is accompanied riding through the desert by Swedish friend, free lance writer Tanya Holm, who’s spent a couple of years in this country. More of his observations can be found on his own website.

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Vad får du inte veta om Jemen?

Posted in Tema: Politik, Tema: Vatten by yemenity2010 on 17/06/2012

Hamnstaden Aden har tagit emot 100 000 flyktingar det senaste året på grund av konflikterna i södra Jemen.

Al-Qaida och deras planerade attentat mot mål i omvärlden. Konflikter kring presidentposten i samband med landets version av arabisk vår, liksom tillslag med förarlösa flygplan, så kallade drönare, mot misstänka terrorister. Sådant har det rapporterats om i globala medier senaste året. Men vad får du inte veta om Jemen genom nyheterna? En hel del, enligt amerikanska PBS, deras motsvarighet till public service-TV (om jag uppfattat saken rätt). Och de riktar sig väl också främst till publiken i USA, men bevakningen där skiljer sig kanske inte så mycket från den i Sverige, förutom att amerikanerna är mer direkt inblandade i landets inre förehavanden vilket i sin tur påverkar prioriteringarna hos mediebolagen.

Vattenkrisen är dock känd för de flesta som intresserar sig för Jemen. Själv skrev jag ett inlägg om den frågan för snart två år sedan när jag bodde och arbetade i Taiz. Enligt PBS är Jemen världens sjunde mest ”vatten-stressade” nation och de mest pessimistiska scenarierna utmålar Sana’a som den första huvudstaden i världen att bokstavligen torrläggas, kanske redan inom tio år. Vad som krävs är kraftiga regeringar och konservering av grundvattenuttaget, och då inte minst inom jordbruket som förbrukar majoriteten av det på ett inte särskilt effektivt sätt. Det hävdar Jemen-experten Charles Schmitz i PBS-artikeln.

– Jemen har kapaciteten att göra det, men de människor som vet hur man organiserar ett sådant företag har inte det politiska mandatet än så länge, menar Schmitz.

Det flitiga bruket av de lätt narkotiska löven qat nämns givetvis i sammanhanget. Odlingen av de buskarna kräver fem gånger så mycket vatten som andra jämförbara grödor.

Tio miljoner jemeniter – farligt nära hälften av befolkningen – är undernärda och fem miljoner i behov av akut nödhjälp, enligt en rapport från sju hjälporganisationer nyligen. Risken är överhängande för en katastrofal svält, säger en representant för Rädda barnen. Problemen förstärks av att hjälp utifrån riskerar att fastna i det korrupta systemet och inte nå fram dit den skulle behövas.

Inre splittring är ett ständigt aber. Enandet av de två tidigare Jemen-staterna 1990 har aldrig varit helt friktionsfritt. Sedan finns de utbredda spänningarna mellan stammar och klaner, som i vissa fall söker mer självstyre och bedrivit väpnad kamp mot regeringen. Det mest kända exemplet är nog Houthi-milisen i norra delen av landet vid gränsen mot Saudiarabien. De skiljer sig från majoriteten bland annat genom att praktisera zaidism, en gren av shiitisk islam. De har inte bara fört krig från och till i flera år med regeringsstyrkor, utan även attackerats av Al Qaida och andra sunnitiska extremister, vilka ser zaidismen som en villolära. Detta har ibland tolkats som ett krig genom ombud mellan Iran och Saudiarabien.

Enligt FN har 366 000 människor blivit internflyktingar i landet beroende på just Houthi-upproret och andra konflikter i norr. Samtidigt sägs 160 000 ha flytt på grund av striderna mellan regeringen och militanta motståndare, inklusive Al Qaida-grupper, i södra Jemen sedan förra året. 100 000 sökt sig till hamnstaden Aden och fått husrum i bland annat skolor, vilket i sig omöjliggjort skolgång för många elever, berättar en annan Jemen-expert, Gregory D. Johnsen. Förutom det finns 300 000 flyktingar från Somalia och Afrikas Horn.

Hur ska man för övrigt förstå just Al Qaidas närvaro i Jemen? Samma kanal publicerade nyligen en rapport om det också. Mer om det senare, möjligen. Artikeln finns i alla fall att tillgå på PBS hemsida.

Källor: ”You Aren’t Hearing About Yemen’s Biggest Problems” av Azmat Khan /Frontline, PBS; ”Understanding Yemen’s Al Qaeda Threat” av Azmat Khan / Frontline, PBS

Aftermath of Assassination in Taiz

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 27/03/2012

There seems to have been a series of reactions in Taiz and around the world since what happened a little more than a week ago, when a teacher and assistant director of a International Training & Development Center was shot to death while driving to work. Including protests by people in the city, not least young people, demanding that the killers be brought to justice. Some public reactions can be found on YouTube and have also been reported by Wall Street Journal, other news outlets and blogs like The Wadi or Freedomnjusticeseeker. Last Tuesday hundreds of people are reported to have marched through the city, condemning the murder.

Some of them can be seen in this YouTube clip where ”Sons of Taiz” give their condolences to the family of Joel Shrum.

– He came all the way from America, with nothing but good intentions, to help and teach the people of Taiz. He was working for a non-profit organization, not for the US Embassy or the US Army. He was there when we needed help, says one former student at ITDC (formerly known as the Swedish Training Centre).

Here’s a summary from American Christian news outlet CBN Online. And according to the likewise American blog Forum of the Nation, an activist named Radwan al-Qadri ”several lawyers and protesters met with the Taiz police chief to demand an investigation.”

There is also a statement from representative Joseph R. Pitts in what appears to be the United States congress, emhasizing that Joel Shrum was not in Yemen to proselytize but to serve the people, and also that the centre is staffed by both Christians and Muslims.

– The people of Yemen are appalled by this violence, said congressman Pitts.

For me personally it’s still sad to think of this happening to someone I met a couple of times, although I didn’t get to know him that well. This was also a place where I spent one year working, meeting a lot of good people, having a lot of interesting discussions with students and colleagues, and learning a great deal about a culture I previously really knew precious little about.  Joel was part of the new managerial team gradually taking over the running of the institute during the last months I spent there in the fall of 2010. What will happen now with the education programs and other activities at ITDC seems uncertain at the moment.

In the wake of the tragic events, the governor of Taiz, Hamoud Khaled Al-Sufi, has expressed outrage, saying:

– Shrum loved Yemenis, and his murder is an insult in the face of humanity, according to the Yemen Times.

The local Security Committee has also introduced a new security plan, including the banning of carrying weapons in the central parts of the city and regulating the movements of motorbikes (which are very common in the city, and were also used by the assassins in this case). Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the killing, but no one has yet been arrested for it.

Tragedy in Taiz

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 18/03/2012

– Did you hear the news from Taiz today?

I hadn’t, when I received the first message on my cellphone, from a former colleague since my time in Yemen. I was in church at the time, unable to access the internet and search for more information, but after a couple of messages back and forth, I realized something really serious had occurred at or close to the centre where I worked in 2010.

Now, reality has started to sink in. An American teacher and deputy director at  the International Training & Development Center in Taiz was shot dead today while driving to work in his car. According to news reports from CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera English, the shooters could be linked to al-Qaida.

– It’s tragic, and most of all for the people. They are the ones suffering when extreme groups try to kill the people trying to help them, said the former director at the centre, Ulf Edström, speaking to Swedish media on Sunday morning.

He was the one in charge of the institute in Taiz when I started my cultural project there, until a new team of managers took over the responsibility.

Why did this happen? Of course a lot of people are asking that question now – including me. Foreigners in Yemen can be targets for terrorists and extreme factions; that’s nothing new. But the city of Taiz was comparably calm and stable for a long time, unlike the border area with Saudi Arabia or parts of former Southern Yemen where separatists as well as militants from al-Qaida have had a growing presence. Last year when discontent with the 30-year-rule of president Saleh escalated, the second largest city of Yemen also became a battle ground. What happened now in Taiz is a tragedy for the family of the teacher, for the centre and people that have attended courses there or in other ways been impacted by it. And that’s quite a lot of people.

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Tragedi i Taiz

Posted in Uncategorized by yemenity2010 on 18/03/2012

– Har du hört nyheterna från Taiz idag?

Ungefär så löd det första meddelandet i mobilen från en före detta kollega sedan tiden i Jemen. Jag var i kyrkan, i färd med att ta hand om en grupp i söndagsskolan, men insåg efter ett par meddelanden fram och tillbaka att något allvarligt hänt i anslutning till centret där jag arbetade under 2010.

Nu har verkligheten börjat sjunka in. En amerikansk lärare och vice föreståndare vid International Training & Development Center i Taiz sköts idag ihjäl av beväpnade män på motorcykel när han färdades i sin bil. Enligt SVT:s ”Rapport” misstänks gärningsmännen ha kopplingar till al-Qaida.

– Det är tragiskt, och det är mest tragiskt för folket. Det är de som lider och det är de som drabbas när extrema grupper försöker döda dem som försöker hjälpa, säger tidigare föreståndaren Ulf Edström till SVT.

Han ledde verksamheten på centret (då känt som Swedish Training Center) under en stor del av en tid när jag själv var där, innan ett nytt ledarteam tog över ansvaret.

Varför? Är det givetvis många som frågar sig nu. Att utlänningar utgör mål för extremister är inte nytt i Jemen, men staden Taiz var tidigare relativt lugn och stabil i förhållande till exempelvis nordligaste delen av landet vid gränsen mot Saudiarabien, eller delar av Sydjemen med både separatister och militanta medlemmar av al-Qaida. Situationen har dock förändrats drastiskt sedan protesterna mot president Saleh inleddes förra våren. Han avgick nyligen efter över 30 års styre, men ingen kan säga säkert i vilken riktning landet i stort kommer att utvecklas nu. Det som hänt idag är en tragedi både för anhöriga, för centret och berörda människor i staden. Och det är ganska många.

Fler rapporter finns på Dagens Nyheter, BBC , CNN och Al Jazeera English.

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Love, Thy Will Be Done* – in Yemen and Elsewhere?

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 22/01/2012

Yemeni Weddings. They are something special. Well, as a visitor you’re aware you never have the whole picture, since most of the festivites are segregated. Men in one place, women in another. What goes on behind the closed doors on the other side? Some answers you can get by reading women reporters’ accounts of the proceedings, such as the latest blog entry from Lebanese writer Mira Baz, who spent many years in Yemen: ”When all I’d seen of Yemen for months was unostentatious women in black, you could imagine the shock of seeing the women at my first few Yemeni weddings! Was this really Yemen? Behind closed doors, and away from the men’s probing eyes – both the harassers and the decent ones – women were letting it all out.” Recommended reading!

Also, the big news this week from Yemen seems to be the immunity law granted to president Ali Abdullah Saleh in exchange for his resignation from office. ”The immunity would cover the 33-year period of Saleh’s presidency and could not be cancelled or appealed against.” reports Al Jazeera English. Protests are said to have erupted in the city of Taiz, one of the three biggest cities in Yemen, while al-Qaeda-linked militants are reported to have taken control of Radda, a small town some 170 kilometers south of Sana’a.

Speaking of marriages: The American election campaign is on, at least on the Republican side. A lot of it makes for fascinating coverage even for us non-Americans. Sometimes intentionally funny, like the reports from Jon Stewart and his Daily Show team, as well as his former sidekick Stephen Colbert. Other times, you come across opinions that attract your attention and may be entertaining, but maybe not in the way it was intended. Like the endorsement of candidate Newt Gingrich from psychiatrist Keith Ablow, published by Fox News.

Telling quotes: ”When three women want to sign on for life with a man who is now running for president, I worry more about whether we’ll be clamoring for a third Gingrich term, not whether we’ll want to let him go after one”. Exactly, that’s what the Republicans used to say about Bill Clinton and his infamous affairs, right? I am not saying a president or prime minister needs to be morally flawless (which is a rare quality). And relationships are not always easy, but… I guess I might be looking for some sort of consistency. Ablow’s conclusion: ”So, as far as I can tell, judging from the psychological data, we have only one real risk to America from his marital history if Newt Gingrich were to become president: We would need to worry that another nation, perhaps a little younger than ours, would be so taken by Mr. Gingrich that it would seduce him into marrying it and becoming its president. And I think that is exceedingly unlikely.”

At least on the last issue, I tend to agree… Or will South Sudan come courting in a few years?

By the way, I started watching ”The Tudors” on DVD last year, the series about the English 16th-century king Henry VIII. He is known for having had six wives of which he divorced some, executed others and in the process he created a new church. Among other things. It’s intriguing to follow the proceedings in the corridors of power and the way people fall in and out of luck with an emotional, strong-willed, manipulative and sometimes cruel king. Halfway through the second season I only miss one thing about the concept as a whole: someone to really root for. Most people involved are more or less corrupt, but simultaneously believable, and sometimes even possible to identify with.  Recommended watching. But you might wonder – what’s love got to do with it?** Maybe everything, maybe nothing at all.

* Yes, that’s the title of what was once upon a time quite a big hit, performed by Martika and composed by the artist sometimes known as Prince.

**And that’s a Tina Turner tune. Right again.

Aktivisten Afrah analyserar sitt hemland

Posted in Tema: Politik by yemenity2010 on 23/09/2011

Hon lämnade sitt hemland i våras efter dödshot och hamnade i Sverige, där hon nu fått asyl. Nu berättar Afrah Nasser för tidskriften OmVärlden om den jemenitiska våren (i flera betydelser). Om det nu verkligen är en vår som inletts.

Den här veckan har händelseutvecklingen hettat till i Jemen igen, åtminstone enligt den ökade nyhetsrapporteringen därifrån. Nu sägs även president Ali Abdullah Saleh ha återvänt från några månaders exil i Saudiarabien, där han vårdats efter attentatet mot honom i juni. Och i samband med det – men mer av en tillfällighet, eftersom intervjun rimligtvis gjordes för några veckor sedan eller ännu längre, har OmVärlden (producerat för biståndsorganet Sida av en fristående redaktion) pratat med den unga jemenitiska  journalisten Afrah Nasser, numera hemmahörande i Sverige. Artikeln är intressant både som spegling av en personlig resa och som sammanfattning på händelseutvecklingen i Jemen sedan januari. Afrah har tidigare arbetat som journalist på tidningen Yemen Observer, men engagerade sig personligen i protesterna mot regeringen när de påbörjades.

Bland annat handlar det om kvinnornas roll i rörelsen mot regeringen.

– Revolten handlade inte om kön, inte om män och kvinnor. Den handlade om nationalism, om vad vi verkligen vill med vårt land. Och landet tillhör inte bara männen.

Vidare berörs internets betydelse, vilket framförallt gäller informationen utåt från landet till omvärlden. I Jemen har bara några procent av befolkningen tillgång till internet (brukar det hävdas i alla fall, men jag tror att internetcaféerna får fler och fler besökare, företrädesvis yngre medborgare, vilket skulle kunna öka den andelen i praktiken – red. anm.). Därför är det framförallt resten av planeten som är målgruppen för inlägg som levererats från Jemen på bloggar och twitter. Afrah har prisats av bland andra CNN för sina.

Jemen och terrorismen är ett ämne som inte går att undvika. Men Afrah Nasser tycker att al-Qaida fått för stort utrymme i diskussionen kring landets problem. Det är en liten grupp extremister som president Saleh haft nytta av, genom att framställa dem som ett allvarligt hot och med det få mer ekonomiskt stöd från USA. Stöd som öronmärkts för militära ändamål och nu används mot det egna folket under protesterna.

– Om du ger pengar till en korrupt man som Saleh, tror du då att han kommer att använda dem till utvecklingsprojekt och fattigdomsbekämpning? Naturligtvis inte, slår Afrah Nasser fast i intervjun.

Men hon är inte heller positivt inställd till alla de väpnade grupper som nu slåss mot regeringen. De har alla sin egen agenda och representerar inte henne eller de unga människor som demonstrerat fredligt under våren. Men makten hägrar för alla som ser en chans att få mer av den varan om Saleh till slut väljer att avgå.

– Jemen är som en kaka, och alla vill ha en bit av den, avslutar hon.

Källa: ”En arabisk höst?” av Magnus Åsblad, OmVärlden Nr 6/2011

Uppföljning: Afrah Nasser har en blogg med inlägg på engelska och arabiska. För närvarande finns en hel del starka bilder i de aktuella inläggen, vilket kanske kan vara värt att veta i förväg.

Nu i veckan har för övrigt Dagens Nyheter haft ett större uppslag om den återigen upptrappade konflikten i landet, där över 60 personer dödats och 700 skadats enligt oppositionen (och det var några dagar sedan). De hårda metoderna från regeringen har skapat ett problem även för USA, hävdas i en analys. President Saleh, som länge var mycket misstrodd av supermakten, lierade sig med USA efter 9/11, lovade hjälpa till i jakten på terrorister och har sedan dess fått mer och mer militärt stöd. Men frågan är hur den amerikanska regeringen ska hantera situationen nu.

Källor: ”Raketer mot oppositionens läger i Jemen” av Erik Ohlsson, ”Brutaliteten ett växande problem för Obama” av Nathan Shachar (Dagens Nyheter 21 september 2011, pappersupplagan)

Dessutom har tidningen aktuella kommentarer om oroligheterna från svenska frilansjournalisten Tanya Holm som bor i huvudstaden Sana’a sedan ett par år.

– I skuggan av demonstrationerna befinner sig Jemen i en humanitär kris. Folk går hungriga och arbetslösheten har skjutit i höjden. Så det finns ett stort lidande, berättar hon bland annat.

”Independent” Experts Successful in a Climate of Fear

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Politik by yemenity2010 on 17/09/2011

The media analyzing magazine ”Listening Post” on Al Jazeera English (also available on the web) is usually an interesting watch when I take the time to see the weekly half hour show. Recently they investigated how American media outlets managed to stay objective after terror struck New York ten years ago. Not that well, which might not be news. Specifically, ”Listening Post” took a closer look at these mainly retired military officers and such who were enlisted by the national newsrooms to explain what was happening and why. Many of these had not only been briefed and prepared through the ”Pentagon Pundits Program” where the experts gathered at the US defence headquarters to discuss the main issues and talking points that should be presented to the public. Many of them also had their own financial stakes in the growing defence and security industrial complex.

A ”climate of fear” helped make the media and citizens alike more susceptible to the messages delivered without being filtered as much as they should by the big American networks. The reporter David Barstow from New York Times spent a couple of years finding out how it happened. Not least before the invasion of Iraq 2003, reports on weapons of mass destruction and other arguments supporting military action were valuable to president Bush and his administration, especially when presented by people portrayed as independent and objective – without really being so. The organization FAIR also counted almost 400 interviews on the subject during a few weeks shortly before the invasion, where only in three cases opponents of the war were given the opportunity to make their case. Not only TV and radio but also newspapers had trouble striking a balance, including New York Times. They are now considered by many – including themselves, it seems – to have gone through their weakest journalistic and least analytical era in the aftermath of 9/11.

Al Jazeera, then a relatively fresh satellite TV station aiming at the Arab world was on the other hand deeply disliked by the Bush government, because of their reporting on the Iraq war. The president is said to have been seriously considering bombing their Qatar headquarters, but was supposedly talked out of it by the British prime minister Tony Blair. When the war in Iraq started getting more troublesome and scandals like the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison were known, the US media gradually regained their investigative abilities.

Not: inlägget finns i en svensk och aningen längre version på russin.nu.

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