Yemen: Dying For Ancient Traditions

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September 29, 2012:  Al Qaeda and the government are both concentrating on killing each other's' leaders. This is called decapitation (taking off the head) warfare. Al Qaeda has long used this approach, declaring potential victims enemies of Islam and worthy only of death. Al Qaeda has an edge because it recruits suicide bombers and can ignore civilian casualties. But in Yemen the government has American UAVs and intelligence agencies locating and killing al Qaeda leaders with unprecedented precision (as in very few civilian casualties). Al Qaeda tries to make the few civilian casualties of the UAV attacks a reason to shut down the CIA operation, but the Yemeni government openly rejects that and regularly voices support for the attacks. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continues to attack, with less success, government leaders, especially members of the intelligence services (who collect information on al Qaeda leaders for the UAV attacks). So far this year there have been 33 UAV attacks in Yemen, compared to ten last year. This is the weapon al Qaeda leaders fear the most.

Al Qaeda and several other Islamic terror groups are on the defensive in Yemen and being ground down by army sweeps and American UAV attacks. While many of their tribal allies have surrendered, the hard-core Islamic radicals will fight to death, or flee to the few places where they are welcome (Syria and northern Mali) these days. Syria is dangerous and Mali is barren and remote. But increasingly both are better alternatives to Yemen. Somalia and Pakistan used to be decent al Qaeda refuges, but both places have become deadly for Islamic radicals, especially Arab ones.

Over a third of the Yemeni population is suffering from hunger. Foreign food aid often gets stolen by bandits or government officials and not a lot of it gets to the people who need it most (unless they get some money so they can buy the foreign aid in a local market place). Corruption continues to be one of the major problems in Yemen, more so than Islamic terrorism (which draws much of its popular support from promises to reduce corruption).

September 28, 2012: In the south (Abyan province) a bomb was found and disabled outside the home of a counter-terrorism commander that al Qaeda wanted dead.

In the capital the Friday demonstrations, which overthrew the previous government, continue. The people are demanding that the deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh be forced to give up the money and assets he and his cronies stole and amnesty deals be revoked. While Saleh is no longer president, he is still leader of a powerful political party and has many supporters, including thousands with guns. Saleh and his friends will fight to hang onto their loot. The new government consists of Yemeni politicians not much different than Saleh and friends. The new crew expects to plunder Saleh's property over the next few years, as that's what those in power do in Yemen. Many Yemenis want a more honest and efficient government, like those that exist in the West. Vested interests in Yemen are opposed to that, knowing that Westerners prosecute corrupt officials and put a lot of them in prison. That is not the Yemeni way and many armed Yemenis are willing to die to preserve Yemen's ancient traditions.

September 27, 2012: In the south (Hadramawt province) an al Qaeda bomb went off next to a courthouse, but the only fatalities were three children walking home from school.

September 26, 2012: In the south, 32 kilometers from the coast, someone bombed a natural gas pipeline. This halts the export of $15 million of gas a day.

The government offered to negotiate a peace deal with Islamic terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, if these groups first disarmed. That is unlikely to happen, although some of the local terrorist groups have many demoralized members.

September 24, 2012: An oil pipeline was bombed, blocking export or use of 8,000 barrels a day (nearly $800,000 worth a day). In the capital an al Qaeda death squad killed a military intelligence commander.

September 22, 2012: In the south (Aden) an al Qaeda death squad failed in an attempt to kill a pro-government tribal leader. The object of the attack, Abdul Latif al Sayed, used to work with al Qaeda, and this is the fifth attempt on his life since he switched sides three years ago. The latest attempt killed the suicide bomber and wounded four bystanders.

Two days of political violence in the north (Amran province) left 16 dead and over fifty wounded. The Shia rebels up there have allied themselves with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh (who is from a small Shia tribe near the capital). The northern Shia have been fighting for years to get back the autonomy they enjoyed for generations. When Saleh was in power he fought this autonomy movement. Now that Saleh is out of power he backs his fellow Shia.

September 20, 2012: Bowing to public pressure the government has agreed to investigate and prosecute abuses committed during last year's popular uprising against the Saleh government. This could threaten the amnesty deal Saleh and his followers received in exchange for surrendering control of the government.

September 18, 2012: Several dozen members of a U.S. Marine Corps embassy security unit arrived at the American embassy. This was in response to a week of violent demonstrations against the U.S. embassy because of an American movie critical of Islam. Similar demonstrations in Libya provided cover for an al Qaeda attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya on September 11th.

September 16, 2012: In the capital an al Qaeda death squad failed in an attempt to kill the defense minister. The minister was wounded and nine were killed (including the suicide bomber, four bodyguards, and four civilians).

 

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