Yemen: Al Qaeda Does It Again


April 16, 2012: Over the last week al Qaeda has lost nearly 200 dead and many more wounded, in an attempt to capture the southern town of Loder (or Lawder). There were also about 150 casualties (most of them pro-government armed tribesmen) among the security forces and civilians inside the town. The fighting died down over the weekend, as al Qaeda fighters pulled back to several villages outside Loder. Located in the southern province of Abyan, Loder is 150 kilometers northeast of Zinjibar, the provincial capital. For over year al Qaeda has fought for control of Zinjibar. But the army surrounded the town and kept interfering with al Qaeda activity. Stalled by the army at Zinjibar, al Qaeda assembled several thousand men outside Loder, a town on roads that linked Shabwa, Bayda, and Lahij provinces. To the east the town of Mudia was held by pro-government tribesmen, but if al Qaeda could take Lodel, Mudia would be cut off from army reinforcement and would be easier to take. Loder was also seen as key for the movement of army or al Qaeda forces throughout the south. The town normally has 30,000 residents but many have fled to avoid the fighting. Al Qaeda used a combination of attacks by groups of gunmen and terror operations (suicide bombers and roadside bombs) against the army and residents in Loder. The air force has bombed the concentrations of al Qaeda men around the town, causing most of the casualties.

Throughout the south al Qaeda continues to ambush soldiers and police or kidnap commanders. This sort of thing happens about once every day. While these attacks do hurt army and police morale, most of the casualties are local civilians, which make al Qaeda less popular. This is the same pattern of failure al Qaeda has played out in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and so many other places.

Al Qaeda has become strong in the south by recruiting the most fanatic young tribesmen and merging them with experienced Islamic terrorists from all over Arabia. These foreigners had fled to Yemen because counter-terror operations in their home countries (especially Saudi Arabia) became too intense. Recently this has included a hundred or so Islamic radicals fleeing defeat in Somalia, just across the Gulf of Aden. There, Islamic radical group al Shabaab has strived for several years to terrorize the population into obedience. It didn't work, and so far this year al Shabaab has lost most of the territory it controlled and most of its armed manpower as well. That pattern is beginning to repeat itself in Yemen, where al Qaeda, by exploiting tribal factionalism, has got tribesmen fighting each other throughout southern Yemen. While the southern tribes want more autonomy, and money, from the central government, they don't really want the harsh religious rule imposed by al Qaeda. More armed tribesmen are siding with the government, which is now willing to make concessions, as long as it doesn't include al Qaeda.

April 15, 2012:  In the east (Hadramawt province) a roadside bomb killed three children. Elsewhere in the south an al Qaeda mortar attack on the town of Loder killed an armed civilian working with the army. Later that day a suicide bomb killed three pro-government tribesmen in Loder.

President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi has ordered the recently dismissed head of the air force (general Mohammed Saleh Al Ahmer, a brother of former president Saleh) to be put on trial for mutiny, for refusing to step down when ordered to do so on April 6th.  Ahmer is still free, guarded by armed men loyal to him.

April 14, 2012: An American UAV killed three al Qaeda leaders and four followers in an attack 210 kilometers southeast of the capital. The missiles hit a vehicle travelling on a road. Near the southern port of Aden an al Qaeda attack on a checkpoint left four policemen and eight terrorists dead.

In Loder al Qaeda gunmen began withdrawing to three villages, 5-15 kilometers from the town.

April 13, 2012: In the south pro-government tribesmen captured local al Qaeda leader Abdel Rauf Nassib and turned him over to the army.

At Loder there were over a hundred casualties, mostly al Qaeda, as the Islamic terrorists made yet another attack on army positions.

April 12, 2012: The army sent 200 special counter-terror troops to Loder, to assist the soldiers, police and pro-government tribesmen defending the place against al Qaeda attack.

April 10, 2012: Al Qaeda blew up a section of oil pipeline in the southeastern province of Shabwa. The oil exports make up over 60 percent of government income and oil revenue has been cut by more than a third in the last year because of these constant pipeline attacks. Saudi Arabia has been giving Yemen oil to make up for these losses, in addition to cash and other aid. Saudi Arabia will not tolerate an al Qaeda victory in Yemen and, increasingly, neither will most Yemenis.



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