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Yemen: New Crew, Same As The Old Crew
   Next Article → AIR DEFENSE: New And Improved, Eventually
February 25, 2012: Former president Saleh returned from the United States where he received medical treatment. Saleh will attend the ceremony on the 27th when his successor, former vice president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, is formally installed as president. Hadi was sworn in as president today before the assembled members of the parliament. The "Arab Spring" uprising in Yemen focused on getting long-time president Saleh to resign. That has been accomplished. But Saleh loyalists are still running the country and the problems Saleh caused, or simply presided over, remain.

The new president Hadi is expected to deal with the separatist tribes in the north (who are Shia) and the south (who are Sunni, and sometimes allied with al Qaeda). The southern rebels have interrupted the flow of oil, reducing it by about a third. Yemen has oil reserves worth over $300 billion and is currently exporting it at the rate of some $6 billion a year. Peace in the south would increase that by $3 billion. But over 80 percent of the oil is in the south and one goal of the southern separatists was to gain complete control of the southern oil via autonomy or independence for the south. That is a big incentive for the rest of the country to stop this partition effort. In addition to rebellions the new president has to deal with overpopulation, a deteriorating economy, and a growing water shortage (largely because of the growing of the addictive and intoxicating Khat plant, for export to Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal but very popular). Then there's corruption and a general lack of national unity, plus Islamic terrorism and bad relations with the neighbors.

Then there are the refugees from Africa (mainly Somalia). Over 90,000 arrived last year. Drought in northeast Africa prompted more people to leave and the Yemeni and Somali smugglers have been very busy. Yemen has refugee camps with about 200,000 of these foreigners, plus 450,000 Yemenis displaced by months of violence. Some of the Yemen refugees are returning home but most of the foreign refugees are stuck. They refuse to go home and no other nation wants them.

Government officials are divided over the issue of negotiating with pro-al Qaeda tribesmen in the south. There are about a thousand al Qaeda fighters in Yemen, who have recently been reinforced by 200 or so al Qaeda gunmen who fled Somalia (where the Islamic terrorist groups are taking heavy losses). Al Qaeda forces in Yemen have already lost nearly 500 dead and captured in the past year.

In Somalia, peacekeeper commanders have detected evidence that several hundred al Qaeda members have fled to Yemen on the last week or so. The local Islamic terrorist organization, al Shabaab, announced on the 10th that they had merged with al Qaeda. This was a move to persuade the al Qaeda men to not leave. The foreign al Qaeda men have long had problems with the Somali radicals. The Arab al Qaeda men looked down on the Somali al Shabaab members and Somalis don't like that. The Somalis are black Africans who consider themselves Arab, but Arabs tend to look down on all black Africans. This is a constant source of tension. Worst of all, al Shabaab has been losing badly this year, being forced to retreat everywhere. That, plus the continued friction with al Shabaab men led to the al Qaeda men leaving. Many fled to their home countries but most went to Yemen, which was easily reached using people smugglers in the north. Al Qaeda in Yemen is heavily engaged in Yemen and believes they have a chance to establish a base area there. Most Americans and their foreign (mainly Saudi and American) allies disagree.  

February 21, 2012:  Presidential elections were held. There was only one candidate, vice president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Some 65 percent of eligible voters participated, with about 99 percent voting for Hadi. Southern secessionist tribesmen continued to protest the elections and demand partition of the country. About ten people died and many more were wounded by the anti-election violence.

February 18, 2012: In the southern town of Zinjibar three al Qaeda men were killed in two incidents.

February 17, 2012: In the south, police arrested 21 men suspected of being al Qaeda members and committing five recent murders in Bayda province.

February 16, 2012: In the south (Bayda province), fighting between al Qaeda and anti-al Qaeda tribesmen led to the death of the local al Qaeda leader and about twenty other tribesmen.

February 15, 2012: In the capital, a booby-trapped car exploded, killing a soldier and wounding four others.

In Bayda province, al Qaeda shot dead five people as part of an effort to disrupt upcoming elections.

February 14, 2012: The coast guard intercepted an Iranian ship that was trying to deliver weapons to northern Shia tribesmen. The Shia tribes have been demanding more autonomy for decades.

In the southern city of Aden a man died while planting a bomb near a voting place.

In the southern town of Zinjibar army artillery killed 12 al Qaeda men, including one of the terrorist leaders.

February 12, 2012: In the south (Abyan province), al Qaeda publically executed three of its members (two Saudis and a Yemeni) who had been accused of working for Saudi intelligence. Saudi Arabia is known to have an extensive intelligence network in Yemen and the Yemeni government tolerates this (in return for some of the information, or other favors).

Next Article → AIR DEFENSE: New And Improved, Eventually