With assistance from American intelligence resources (UAVs and electronic monitoring) the government is getting a better idea of how many al Qaeda are left in Yemen and where they are. This surveillance has also provided more details on how many southern tribesmen are still tight with al Qaeda and which ones can be negotiated with. The Americans are also providing more info on the rebellious Shia tribes in the north and their links with Iran. Armed resistance is still a big problem in Yemen, along with the usual corruption, water shortages, unemployment, and general unhappiness.
The American UAV effort in Yemen is also concentrating on killing as many key al Qaeda personnel as possible. Yemen is helping, providing information to confirm who the best targets are. Yemen wants to avoid killing some tribal leaders who are currently allied with al Qaeda but might be persuaded to switch sides. The UAV campaign has been devastating to al Qaeda, making it difficult to move freely and generating a lot of nervousness and paranoia among al Qaeda personnel. That’s because Yemenis are encouraged (by cash rewards) to report on the location of al Qaeda personnel. This, plus the ability of the UAVs and electronic surveillance to confirm this information, has made life very uncomfortable for al Qaeda personnel. Attempts to use human shields has not proved to be completely successful, as few women and children volunteer for this duty.
The death toll from a four day old operation in the south to free three Westerners has already left more than 30 dead and the kidnappers still refuse to surrender their captives. The government is determined to rescue the captives but al Qaeda is putting up major resistance.
It is believed that last year at least 107,000 Africans were smuggled across the Gulf of Aden and entered Yemen. This was a record, that last one being in 2011 (103,000). Drought in northeast Africa, and chronic poverty and lack of economic opportunity, has driven more people to leave and the Yemeni and Somali smugglers have been very busy. There are believed to be more smugglers now because many who had switched to piracy are back because the counter-piracy effort has made piracy much less profitable. Most of the people smuggled into Yemen want to keep moving to find work in the wealthy Arab Gulf states, Israel or Europe. Yemen has refugee camps with about 200,000 of these foreigners who did not move on for one reason or another.
January 29, 2013: In the southeast (Hadramout province) two intelligence officers were shot near a police station. Al Qaeda and anti-government tribes are particularly hostile to anyone asking too many questions. Operations to free three Westerners held in southern al Bayda province continue. Four air attacks killed 16 al Qaeda men (or tribesmen allied with them). Two soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb.
January 28, 2013: In the south (al Bayda province) an army effort to free three kidnapped Westerners left 11 soldiers dead from a suicide car bomb. This happened while army armored vehicles were firing on the tribal village where the three captives were believed to be held. Elsewhere in the area tribesmen ambushed and killed three soldiers.
January 25, 2013: A pipeline near the Red Sea was bombed again, halting flow of oil and much needed income for the government. In the southern port of Aden inspectors found 115 T14 Turkish assault rifles in a cargo container. This was the second such shipment since last November and the Turkish government confirmed that both shipments were illegal.
January 24, 2013: The government confirmed that Said al Shihri, a Saudi who was second in command of al Qaeda in Yemen, had died in December of wounds suffered from an American UAV attack in September. Shihri had been captured in Pakistan in 2002 and sent to Guantanamo. But the Saudis got him released in 2007, on the promise that they would keep him jailed or rehabilitate him. The rehabilitation did not work and Shihri fled to Yemen and rejoined al Qaeda.
January 23, 2013: An American UAV used missiles to kill six al Qaeda men north of the capital. This makes 20 al Qaeda members killed by UAV attacks in the last week.
January 22, 2013: The coast guard stopped a dhow (sailboat) and found tons of weapons (including assault rifles, ammo, and bomb making materials). The weapons were meant for an arms dealer in Yemen and came from Iran. The U.S. had tracked the dhow and tipped off the Yemenis that it was suspicious and should be boarded. The eight man crew of the dhow were all Yemeni.
January 16, 2013: South of the capital two gunmen on a motorcycle killed a senior intelligence official.
January 15, 2013: The government believes three Westerners (studying Arabic in the capital) who were kidnapped last month have been sold to a pro-al Qaeda tribe in the south.
January 14, 2013: Police arrested two al Qaeda members near the capital during a raid on a terrorist hideout. A third man escaped. Weapons and bomb making materials were seized.
January 13, 2013: In the south (al Bayda province) an explosion in the home of an al Qaeda member left 13 dead. It’s believed that this was an accident while building a bomb.
In the capital over 20,000 southern separatists demonstrated for autonomy in the south. American officials accused Iran of supporting the southern separatists.