Potential Hot Spots: December 18, 2001


Alerted that al Qaeda members were operating under the protection of the Abida tribe near the Saudi border, Yemeni police and troops moved in. Armed tribesmen resisted and a dozen people were killed (four tribesmen and eight soldiers). At least 22 other tribesmen and soldiers were wounded. The five al Qaeda suspects escaped during the battle. Several tribesmen were arrested on suspicion of harboring the terrorists. There are some 5,000 Abida live in the region, and this tribe has long been known for lawless behavior and hostility to the central government. In the last eleven years, some one hundred foreigners have been kidnapped by Abida gunmen and only released when the government granted money or special treatment for the tribe. The special force of Yemeni soldiers sent after the Abida were equipped and trained with American assistance. Yemen has always had problems with the interior tribes. Even the peoples along the coast don't get on with each other very well. The country was divided into two nations, North Yemen and Yemen, until they unified in 1990. South Yemen was a British colony until 1967. There has been a series of civil wars and civil unrest in Yemen over the last three decades. The tribes along the officially undefined Saudi border have always been independent and don't recognize national borders. The government has long wanted to bring these tribes under control and the United States is encouraging them to use the War on Terrorism as an opportunity to do so. Osama bin Laden's father belonged to one of the nearby tribes and bin Laden is seen as something of a local hero by many tribesmen. 


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