Yemen: Doing The Math


April 17, 2010:  After initially declining to pursue radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki, the government has reversed itself and announced it is in pursuit of Awlaki. Meanwhile, the family of Awlaki is trying to get their boy off the American "wanted" list. One offer is for Awlaki to halt his anti-American statements in return for getting off the hit list. Awlaki has lied many times in the past, and it's doubtful a deal like this could be made. The U.S. wants Awlaki, dead or alive, and is determined to get him. Awlaki's tribal protectors are having second thoughts about going to war with the government, and the Americans, over this.

The Shia rebels in the north denied that they fired on a military aircraft two days ago. The twin-engine government transport was not hit, but people on board saw the tracers from a heavy machine-gun, as the aircraft was coming to land at Saada (the major city up north.) The Shia rebels are a coalition, with many squabbling factions. Not all of these groups agree with the decision to start a cease fire on February 12th, but the most powerful factions like to pretend that the Shia rebels are more united and disciplined than they really are.

Reports continue to come out of Somalia, about small groups of al Qaeda arriving from Yemen. There's not a mass exodus from Yemen, but apparently a large minority (20-30 percent) of the al Qaeda in Yemen believe their chances of survival are better in elsewhere. Many al Qaeda apparently fled to Saudi Arabia, where several were recently arrested in a terrorist roundup. There is a lot more police activity in Saudi Arabia, but you are unlikely, as in Somalia, to get shot by some angry local.

Yemeni fishermen are complaining to the government about Indian and Russian warships destroying Yemeni fishing boats. The foreigners accuse the fishermen of being pirates, which the fishermen insist they are not. Yemen says it will protest any further attacks. Some Yemeni fishermen do a little piracy on the side, and many more smuggle people and goods between Somalia and Yemen.

April 15, 2010: Two bombs went off in eastern Yemen, killing a retired army officer, and the bodyguard of  a police commander (the main target). The attack on the police was blamed on al Qaeda, which has been active in this area, 600-700 kilometers east of the capital. But the retired army officer died when he and his brother, also a retired officer, mishandled a bomb they were transporting.

Several thousand separatists turned out in the capital, and several other cities and large towns in the south, to protest government corruption and discrimination against southerners. The demonstrators protested the arrest of separatist leaders. Several demonstrators were wounded, but the unrest did not spread to the general population. So far, the separatist movement has not caught on in a big way, but there's always potential for that to change.

April 13, 2010: In the north, some Shia rebels were defacing an empty school building (with anti-American and anti-government graffiti) when they were confronted by a school guard. Shooting began, leaving one of the rebels and the school guard dead. The government declared this to be a major ceasefire violation. The rebels said that was an exaggeration, and that it was all a misunderstanding.

April 12, 2010: Four men from the Shia north were put on trial for being Iranian spies. The four were accused of being agents of Iran as far back as 1994. The government insists that the Shia rebels are backed by Iran, and want to document this accusation.

April 11, 2010: The initial response of the al Awlaki tribe was that they would do all in their power to protect their kinsman, radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki, from American and Yemeni security forces. Later, someone did the math and decided this was not a good idea. Meanwhile, the government openly complained that the United States was not providing any intelligence help in their search for Awlaki. This was apparently remedied in the following days, as the government proved that it would actively (by Yemeni standards) look for Awlaki.



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