Yemen: The Revolution Isn't Over Yet

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April 24, 2012:  Yemen is having a difficult time halting a complex (many factions) civil war. Some factions are even recruiting from foreign refugees from Africa (mainly Somalia). Over 90,000 of these illegal migrants arrived last year. Drought in northeast Africa prompted more people to leave and the Yemeni and Somali smugglers have been very busy. Yemen has refugee camps with about 200,000 of these foreigners, plus 450,000 Yemenis displaced by months of violence. Some of the Yemen refugees are returning home but most of the foreign refugees are stuck. While most seek to move on to Saudi Arabia or Europe, they can't refuse to go home and no other nation wants them.

The protestors who have been coming out, often at risk to their own lives, and demonstrating against the government for over a year, are still at it. The peace deal that had president Saleh resign (with amnesty) left many of Saleh's kin and cronies in powerful positions. The demonstrators want the Saleh henchmen out of power and brought to justice. These guys have not stolen as much money as former president Saleh and are not likely to get any amnesty. So these fellows have more of an incentive to hang onto power. In other words, the revolution isn't over yet. The U.S. and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab oil states in the Persian Gulf) agree that Saleh supporters who refuse to obey the new government have to go. But some of these people are military leaders who are more concerned with their own welfare than with that of the country as a whole.

Down south al Qaeda continues to take a beating. There have been nearly 400 dead in the last two weeks, about 80 percent of them al Qaeda and anti-government tribesmen. The army has the advantage of air power and more artillery (guns and rockets). Most of the fighting is still outside Loder (or Lawder), where soldiers and pro-government armed tribesmen fight to drive away or kill the several thousand al Qaeda and anti-government gunmen holding villages surrounding the town. Located in the southern province of Abyan, Loder is 150 kilometers northeast of Zinjibar, the provincial capital. For over a year al Qaeda has fought for control of Zinjibar. But the army surrounded the town and has been pushing al Qaeda gunmen out of the area. Frustrated 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 Loder, Mudia would be cut off from army reinforcement and would be easier to take. Loder was also seen as key for movement of an 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. After two weeks of losing to the army, the anti-government tribesmen are beginning to falter and desert. Al Qaeda has lost over a hundred dead and American UAVs, guided by U.S. and Yemeni intelligence, are finding and killing al Qaeda leaders. This is contributing to al Qaeda defeats elsewhere in the south, especially around Zinjibar.  The Yemeni Air Force has been much more active since its unpopular commander (a brother of former president Saleh) was forced out.

April 22, 2012: An American UAV killed three terrorists with a missile. There have been eight of these attacks in the last four months. Officially, these UAV missile attacks are not happening but the Yemeni government (and most of the anti-al Qaeda tribal factions) quietly supports them. The United States is seeking permission from the Yemenis to use the UAVs to attack lower ranking terrorists. Currently, the CIA is only allowed to track down and kill fairly senior al Qaeda leaders.

April 21, 2012: A French Red Cross worker was kidnapped by al Qaeda and apparently taken to Jaar, a town in the south where a Saudi Arabian diplomat (taken in Aden on March 28th) is also being held. Tribal leaders are brokering talks to get the Saudi diplomat freed. His captors are asking for lots of cash and the release of al Qaeda prisoners held in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are reluctant to accede to either demand.

In the north fighting between Sunni and Shia tribesmen left at least eight dead and many more wounded.

April 17, 2012: An American UAV killed five terrorists with a missile.

 

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