September 29, 2010: In the last week, security forces moved against known or suspected al Qaeda bases in the southeast, especially Shabwa province. There were several gun battles, and over a hundred casualties. Captured documents indicated the terrorists were planning several attacks and assassinations of government officials. With most al Qaeda members driven from their safe houses and bases, the terrorists will not halt their attacks. They are on a mission from God, and will stay at it until killed.
Despite these setbacks, the al Qaeda members in Yemen appear to have learned something from their disastrous defeat in Iraq. Now there are far fewer attacks on civilians, with most of the violence directed at security forces and government officials. Although driven out of their bases in towns of the rural tribal areas (in the south and southeast), al Qaeda is trying to set up bases in the mountains and get into the cities. The cities are where the senior government officials are, and much of the fighting consists of battling troops manning checkpoints or patrolling the rural areas, in order to reach the cities, especially the capital.
One advantage the government has is that there aren't many al Qaeda members in the country. Again, that's a legacy of Iraq, where al Qaeda lost thousands of its most fanatical fighters, along with the support of most Moslems. The slaughter of so many civilians hurt recruiting, even though al Qaeda is now avoiding civilian casualties. Too late, as the Islamic radicals are generally seen as a bunch of kill-crazy fanatics, with no discipline or focus. This has hurt recruiting. This is what has happened in Algeria, where the local Islamic radical movement killed over 100,000 in the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century. Now there are only a few hundred of these religious fanatics left, most of them driven into the coastal mountains, or the Sahara Desert to the south. They are now considered a criminal gang, with a preference for murder, kidnapping and killing cops. Al Qaeda in Yemen is headed down the same road. There is no place to run. Some al Qaeda have fled to Somalia, where they found an even more chaotic and dangerous environment.
In the last few days, police have dispersed several small separatist demonstrations. The separatists have not been able to attract a lot of support, and were reluctant to cooperate with al Qaeda (which is seen as a dangerous, and unpredictable, organization.) But establishing a separate Yemeni state in the south is still popular down there, and could quickly blossom into something big and ugly.
Radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki, and possible heir to Osama Bin Laden, is still on the loose. Unlike other al Qaeda members, Awlaki is a native Yemeni (despite being born in the United States) and has tribal connections that provide more protection. But the Yemeni government is under growing Western pressure to take the tribal relations hit, and go get Awlaki. The government has promised to put that on its todo list, but not at the top. The U.S. has threatened to take action itself on Awlaki, using its airborne intelligence forces, and missile armed UAVs. The Yemeni government would be greatly embarrassed by a UAV missile attack on Awlaki, because "foreign troops in Yemen" (even if they are robots flying overhead) is a sensitive issue,
September 27, 2010: In the southwest, five al Qaeda members were killed and 30 suspects arrested.
September 26, 2010: As police searched the town of Houta, in the south, they found a car bomb in a public place, and disabled it. Thousands of residents who had fled when the army moved in, have returned to their homes.
September 25, 2010: In the south, al Qaeda resistance in the town of Houta collapsed, and several dozen of the terrorists escaped into nearby mountains. In the capital, two gunmen ambushed a bus carrying a police, wounding ten of the passengers.