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Al Qaeda gaining More and More Ground in Yemen!

Interesting Article: "Al-Qaeda exploiting Yemen’s military split" by Associated Press / Aden published Monday, April 2nd, 2012

An interesting article mentioned that Al Qaeda is successfully exploiting splits within Yemen's armed forces, Defense Minister Mohammad Naser Ahmed warned on Sunday as suspected Islamist militants killed seven soldiers in the second such attack in two days. The Yemeni military split last year during protests against the 33-year rule of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, with some forces remaining loyal and others joining the opposition. Briefing parliament on raids that have killed nearly 200 soldiers since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office in February; Ahmed said that jostling for power and logistical difficulties were helping the militants. Would you like to know more?


"The army is divided," he said. "Two legitimacies are in a struggle and we are caught between them. Each side is trying to prevail against the other and al Qaeda is exploiting all of this." Officials have blamed the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamist group that controls large swathes of territory in southern Yemen, for the recent attacks. On Sunday the Defense Ministry's September 26 news portal said that "seven soldiers were martyred in a treacherous terrorist attack on their outpost" near the city of Shibam, in the southern Hadramout province. Ahmed said that roads were cut and Yemen's sole military transport plane had been sabotaged on an air base recently, making it difficult to send arms to soldiers fighting al-Qaeda. But he said his ministry had devised a plan to overcome the army's divisions, which he said he hoped to implement within two weeks. He gave no details of the plan but said he would tender his resignation if it was not implemented.

The government has responded with air strikes on suspected Islamist hideouts, and the United States has repeatedly used its drones to attack militants, who have seized several southern towns over the past year. For example, surveillance aircraft operated by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command flew over southeastern Yemen on the evening of March 9, tracking a mid-level Al Qaeda commander as he drove to his mountain hideout. American missiles soon rained down. The Al Qaeda commander was killed, along with 22 other suspected militants, most of them believed to be young recruits receiving military training, U.S. officials said. The attack is an example of how the U.S. is escalating its largely secret campaign in Yemen, taking advantage of improved intelligence and of changes in Yemen's leadership now that President Ali Abdullah Saleh has stepped down. The changes have allowed attacks against militants who until recently might have eluded U.S. attention, the officials say.

The U.S. has focused its airstrikes in areas where militants from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the main insurgent group operating in Yemen, and their tribal allies have seized and held towns in the last year. The stepped-up U.S. attacks appear aimed in part at preventing militants from consolidating control over the region — the southern Yemeni provinces of Abyan, Shabwa and Bayda (see map above). Those provinces have become the world's largest haven for Al Qaeda in the years since the U.S. began drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan, U.S. officials say. Most militants fighting under the Al Qaeda banner in Yemen are local insurgents, U.S. officials say, along with Saudis bolstering the ranks and assuming leadership roles. Some of the militants are known to harbor ambitions of attacking the West: Ibrahim Hassan Asiri, who made the underwear bomb used by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in an attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit, remains at large in Yemen, U.S. officials say.

U.S. officials would not say exactly how many strikes have been carried out in Yemen, and it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between Yemeni military attacks and American actions. A website that tracks U.S. counter-terrorism actions, estimates that 23 strikes have been carried out in Yemen since January 2009, far lower than the 245 drone strikes it counted in Pakistan during that period.

Yemen's new president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, has proved more willing than his predecessor to approve U.S. airstrikes, one of the reasons for the recent surge in attacks, American and Yemeni officials said.

References:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/01/us-yemen-attack-idUSBRE83008120120401
http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-rt-yemen-attack--update-3l6e8f103a-20120401,0,6287812.story
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-us-yemen-20120402,0,3212469.story 
http://www.demotix.com/news/1137055/front-lines-al-qaeda-yemen



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