Yemen: Last Man Standing Dies Of Thirst

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April 9, 2012:  Despite former president Saleh leaving office and a new president taking over, the capital is still divided by two armed groups (the army and a renegade general and his troops). In addition, armed men from rebellious tribes have returned to the capital, indicating to the population that the new government is less in control than the previous one. The armed tribesmen bring with them more crime and violence. The government estimates that 4,000 people have died from gun related violence in the last two years, mostly because of personal, family or tribal feuds. There are 11 million firearms in Yemen, distributed among a population of 23 million. That means enough firearms for every adult or teenaged male. Some tribal chiefs and other powerful men possess arsenals containing hundreds of weapons, including mortars and heavy machine-guns.

The economy is collapsing and taking the government with it. Oil and gas production has been halted by attacks on pipelines, cutting off the main source of money for the government. The water supply is rapidly running out because nearly half of it is now being used to grow the drug Khat, which is smuggled into Saudi Arabia or consumed locally (and leaving much of the adult male population dazed and idle most of the day). The economy is a mess, with only four percent of the population having bank accounts and most people just getting by or trying to get out of the country. Thus with a rapidly disappearing water supply, a growing population, a corrupt government, tribes constantly in revolt, rampant smuggling (of Africans into Yemen and drugs and other banned substances into Saudi Arabia) and little legal revenue sources for the tax collector, chaos is seen as inevitable. While Yemenis complain that their government is run by corrupt crooks, an outlaw attitude is popular throughout the country. This makes it difficult to form a new government that is not full of self-serving scoundrels. The basic problem is the tribalism. The chiefs of the major tribes are rich men, who are often deeply involved in the activities (Khat farming, smuggling, and other criminal behavior) that cause so many of the problems in the first place. The tribes are rebelling because each of them is trying to avoid losing in this game of economic musical chairs.

The change of government was accompanied by growing violence in the south, as Islamic radical forces (mainly al Qaeda and local radical group Ansar al Shariah) sought to take control of more territory. At the same time the new government ordered the army to go on the offensive against the Islamic radicals, and that has led to two weeks of greater violence and several thousand casualties. Most of the losses are among the Islamic radicals, since the military has more firepower and al Qaeda and Ansar al Shariah have established camps where all their gunmen could gather. That created easy targets for artillery and air attacks. The Islamic radicals responded with more attacks on military checkpoints, where tribesmen could mass a superior force under cover of darkness and wipe out the dozen or so troops manning the road block.

Yemen is rapidly becoming an economic basket case. Food and water shortages are more common, and outside help has a hard time getting distributed. This is all going to get worse before it gets better.

April 8, 2012: The main airport near the capital was reopened after being shut down by soldiers loyal to a general (the air force commander, the half-brother of former president Saleh) who had been fired by the new president.

April 7, 2012:  Air strikes in the southern town of Zinjibar killed 16 Islamic terrorists. Also in the south, American UAVs killed eight Islamic terrorists with missiles.

April 6, 2012: The new president dismissed several generals loyal to (and sometimes related to) former president Saleh. This included the unpopular head of the air force and the head of the presidential guard. Islamic terrorists fired mortar shells at an airbase outside the southern city of Aden.

The army claims over 100 al Qaeda dead in several days of attacks on the Islamic terrorists in the southern provinces of Lahj and Abyan. Some of these attacks were made by American UAVs, and other attacks were believed made by manned U.S. aircraft.

In the southern city of Aden an Islamic suicide bomber died when his bomb, mounted on a motorbike, went off prematurely. A civilian also died in the explosion. East of Aden (180 kilometers east of the capital) a suicide bomber attacked a military intelligence facility, killing him and two others.

April 3, 2012: In the east someone blew up part of an oil pipeline, halting oil deliveries to the coast for refining for local use or export.

March 31, 2012: In the south al Qaeda gunmen attacked an army camp at night. But the troops held out until daylight, when air support showed up and pounded the attackers. Over 50 died, equally split between soldiers and Islamic radicals.

March 30, 2012: In the south a U.S. UAV missile attack killed five al Qaeda men. Several hours later al Qaeda blew up part of a natural gas pipeline in retaliation.

March 28, 2012: In the southern city of Aden someone kidnapped a Saudi Arabian diplomat.

March 27, 2012: North of the capital artillery fired on suspected rebel tribesmen, but only a few civilians were killed or wounded.

March 26, 2012: Saudi Arabia agreed to provide two month's supply of refined fuel to Yemen. Attacks on Yemeni oil and gas pipelines have crippled the ability to refine fuel locally.

Local Islamic radical group Ansar al Shariah has organized tribal militias and taken control over most of the southeast. The army is moving forces there to confront the rebels, who threaten natural gas production in the region.

 

 

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