21, 2008: Islamic terrorists (they don't
all claim to be al Qaeda) in Yemen managed to pull off another major attack,
and failed. This time the target was the U.S. embassy, and the fifteen minutes
of mayhem included two car bombs and ten or more gunmen. Apparently the plan
was to set off the bombs near two of the entrances, then get into the embassy
itself. These days, U.S. embassies in Islamic countries tend to be built back
from the road, with local police and troops handling outer perimeter security
(and U.S. Marines and contractors handling the embassy buildings defense). This
attack was defeated by the Yemeni security forces, leaving six of the attackers
dead. An Indian passerby was also killed, along with ten other Yemenis
(including the American born wife of a Yemeni, both of whom died while standing
in line to enter the embassy to get a visa for a trip to the U.S.) Four Yemeni
security personnel were killed in the bombing and brief gun battle.
This is a
major loss for the Islamic terrorists, as they have not only failed in their
attack, but killed more Yemenis in doing so. This makes the terrorists less
popular, and soon leads to their demise. This is a trend that has occurred time
and again in the last few decades (in Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq).
For the last
year, Yemen has been increasingly aggressive in rounding up actual, or
suspected, Islamic terrorists. In response, terrorists have set off bombs near
the U.S. and Italian embassies, and a housing compound for foreigners, over the
Al Qaeda in
Yemen operations had actually peaked in 2000, when a suicide bomber took a
boatload of explosives into Aden harbor and badly damaged a U.S. destroyer (the
Cole). That attack killed 17 U.S. sailors, and brought down the wrath of Yemeni
security forces, for a while anyway. Since September 11, 2001, the pressure has
been steady, and hundreds of al Qaeda members and supporters have been arrested
or killed. That has thwarted many attacks, and none of the ones that were
carried out were as effective as the attack on the USS Cole. On the downside,
convicted terrorists have been able to bribe their way out of jail, although
they are often recaptured.
experts have long suspected that al Qaeda leaders had put a ban on operations
in Yemen, in order to keep the local security forces inactive, because the
place is so useful as a terrorist hiding place and a transit node for movement
into other areas. The last thing al
Qaeda wants is lots of counter-terrorism activity in Yemen. This is where Osama
bin Ladens family originally came from, and he still has kin there. The Yemen
government is willing to go along with the al Qaeda "truce", as this
is good for the lucrative tourist trade.
are too many Islamic radical factions, and not a lot of discipline to be found.
So attacks continue. Some Yemeni officials would like to run al Qaeda out of
the country. But most officials see this is as impractical. Many Yemenis are
quite conservative in their religious beliefs, and tend to agree with al Qaeda.
While this is a minority of the population, it is a fanatic one, willing to
cause lots of trouble if stirred up.
recent attack led to the prompt arrest of 25 of the usual suspects.