Yemen: School Daze

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June 12, 2010: In the last six months, police have arrested 60 foreigners, on suspicion of being al Qaeda supporters, most in the past week. Many of those taken into custody were studying Islam or Arabic in schools that cater to foreign students. Most of the non-Yemeni Islamic terrorists traced back to Yemen, have been students in these schools. Police went looking for specific individuals, including the names of people provided by U.S. intelligence.  Most of the students at the religion and language schools are not terrorists, or even pro-terrorist. But because the schools are inexpensive, and have a good reputation for instructing foreigners, many pro-al Qaeda students (either Moslems from non-Arab countries or converts) have attended. Because these terrorist minded students were always a small minority of those attending, and the schools were a source of jobs for many Yemenis, the government long resisted pleas to shut down the schools, or just round up pro-al Qaeda students and faculty. Now, because of the recent violence (from southern separatists, northern Shia and terrorists), and student arrests, many of the schools have gone out of business, or are barely hanging on.

In a related area, the government reports that the local economy is losing over $300 million a year because of the Somali pirates (who prey on Yemeni fishing boats) and the anti-piracy patrol (who often halt and inspect Yemeni fishing boats.) The anti-piracy patrol also interferes with illegal, but lucrative, activities of Yemeni smugglers (who carry people and goods between Somalia, and other African nations, and Yemen). Some of the smugglers have teamed up with Somali pirates, and Yemenis have been arrested for trying to take merchant ships.

Four of the recently arrested foreigners have been released, including an Australian woman and her two young children. Twelve of those arrested are American citizens. The government still refuses to attempt arresting Islamic radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki (an American citizen of Yemeni descent who has been connected with many recent Islamic terror attacks in the West). The government has asked Awlaki to surrender, but has stated that Awlaki would not be extradited to the United States, because Yemen does not extradite its citizens.  The government also does not want to trigger a widespread tribal uprising in the south. The tribes are the only government most Yemenis can really depend on, and most Yemeni men have a gun, or access to one (via a tribal leader). If the tribe is perceived as threatened, the tribal leadership can call upon several percent of the tribal population to form an armed militia. In theory, this would produce a larger armed force than the army or police can muster. Moreover, the security forces cannot expect members to fight their own tribe.

For the last three days, troops and police have been battling pro-al Qaeda tribesmen in the rural east. So far, one has died and eight wounded. The search, and this battle, are the result of an ambush on the 5th, where a colonel and one of his troops was killed.

June 10, 2010: Police arrested a suspected Islamic terrorist, disguised in woman's clothing, in the capital.

June 9, 2010:  In a town east of the capital, ten soldiers and ten tribesmen were injured as police sought to arrest an al Qaeda suspect.

June 7, 2010: In the southern town of Abyan, security forces fought with pro-separatist tribesmen, an operation that killed five and wounded 18. Elsewhere, an al Qaeda leader (Hamza al Dhayani) surrendered. Dhayani was responsible for planning a 2007 suicide bombing that killed eight Spanish tourists. The surrender was negotiated with tribal leaders who had been protecting Dhayani.

June 5, 2010: In the east, an army convoy was ambushed, leaving a colonel and a soldier dead.

June 3, 2010: Al Qaeda in Yemen openly called on its followers in Saudi Arabia to kidnap members of the Saudi Royal family (there are over 10,000 of these) and Christians (even more). The captives would be used to obtain the freedom of hundreds of al Qaeda members in Saudi jails. Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia have been on the run for the last five years, and few members are believed to remain in the kingdom.

 

 

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