Al-Qaeda’s war in Yemen [Archives:2008/1179/Front Page]

August 7 2008

By: Aqeel Al-Halali
For The Yemen Times

Threats of large-scale attack and fierce clashes as relations cool between Yemen and U.S.

SANA'A, Aug. 6 – A leading Al-Qaeda figure in Yemen has threatened to execute armed attacks “at larger scales” if the Yemeni government doesn't release his detained colleagues from prison.

This comes a day after a government announcement that it is interrogating suspects in the July 25th suicide bombing that targeted a camp in Hadramout governorate's Sayoun city, 794 kilometers east of Sana'a.

In a taped recording, Yemeni Al-Qaeda leader Hamza Al-Quaity stated, “Your worries are our worries, your sorrows are ours and your grief is our grief. We'll never forget you, Allah willing. As for you, oh [Ariel] Sharon of Yemen, [Political Security director] Ghalib Ba Gumesh, you'll see how our colleagues will be freed from your prisons, Allah willing.”

Local and Arab media broadcast part of the tape.

Al-Qaeda has called on its supporters to attack American facilities and direct heavy and damaging attacks upon foreign facilities, but to avoid attacking the Yemeni Army and police.

Security forces have been chasing the 38-year-old Al-Quaity, who was born in Hadramout, for the past two and a half years since he and 22 other Al-Qaeda members escaped from Sana'a's Political Security Prison in Sana'a in early 2006.

Al-Quaity has claimed responsibility for bombing the camp in Sayoun, which resulted in killing one soldier and the executor of the attack, a Hadramout University Faculty of Medicine student, and injuring 11 others.

Yemen's Defense Ministry announced on its web site Tuesday that it has begun interrogating six suspected Al-Qaeda members for participating in bombing the Hadramout camp. It reported that it had arrested the group in various areas of the district following a widespread investigation. They were arrested after their Al-Qaeda connections were confirmed.

Yemeni security forces currently are interrogating 21 individuals accused of executing terrorist attacks in Abyan, located 427 kilometers southeast of Sana'a.

Journalist Ahmed Ghurab sees the Yemeni government falling between the hammer of Al-Qaeda, which threatens to attack both government and foreign facilities, and the anvil of Washington, D.C., which is requesting the handover of Al-Qaeda commanders, Jamal Al-Badawi and Jabr Al-Bana.

Ghurab adds, “I believe the future of this conflict between the Yemeni government and Al-Qaeda will become fiercer unless there's stronger coordination between the government and Washington.”

According to observers, Yemen has been nominated in the near future as suitable ground for typical Al-Qaeda operations, particularly since Al-Qaeda's Saudi Arabia branch recently has called upon its supporters to move to Yemen to avoid arrest by Saudi security authorities.

In May, a U.S. report advised the White House not to abandon supporting Yemen and to reconsider decreasing its financial support for Yemen. The report indicated that leaving Yemen alone to face challenges coming from the south and northern parts of the country will turn things in Al-Qaeda's favor.

The U.S. and Yemen have witnessed a cooling of diplomatic relations since late 2007 after Washington was dissatisfied with the Yemeni government's measures to fight terrorism.

According to the report issued by West Point Academy's Anti-Terrorism Center, under the leadership of Nasir Al-Wahishi, Al-Qaeda has amended its strategy for 2008 from conducting massive attacks to lighter and more frequent attacks to compel foreigners to leave the country, thereby causing major damage to the Yemeni government.

Yemen has witnessed 20 terrorist attacks this year that have killed 35 people, including six soldiers and two tourists. According to estimates, 91 individuals have been injured, most of them Yemenis.

Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, including the two attacks that targeted the U.S. and Italian Embassies in Sana'a this past March and April, in addition to a January attack on a Belgian tourist group in Hadramout.