Challenging al-Qa’eda backlash [Archives:2008/1183/Opinion]

August 21 2008

By: Mohammed al-Qadhi
[email protected]

There is no doubt the killing last week by Yemeni security forces of Hamza al-Quaiti, al-Qa'eda in Yemen's number two, will initially sow confusion among the group, but is likely to provoke a violent backlash. The deadly operation in Tarim against al-Qa'eda militants last week is a genuine success for the Yemen security which has failed since last attack on Spanish tourists in Marib, July 2007 to capture any of the perpetrators of almost ten registered attacks for al-Qa'eda in Sana'a, Aden Marib, Abyan and Hadramaut.

Al-Quaiti has been accused of masterminding most of these attacks. From his speeches and statements, Al-Quaiti did not differentiate between civilians and military targets; this is why we have seen operations against Spanish and Belgian tourists. He was with the ideology that security apparatuses and Yemeni soldiers should also be targeted.

Going over these operations al-Qa'eda claimed responsibility, one sees some kind of immaturity and inexperience. Such random attacks targeting citizens, tourists and some foreign interests show some kind of erratic planning and thinking. These are just retaliating attacks, completely different from strategically orchestrated deadly attacks like the USS Cole bombing in Aden in October 2000.

I do agree with the notion the ability of the security to crash al-Qa'eda Tarim cell and kill one of its masterminds immediately after their suicide attack in Sayoun against the security compound demonstrates lack of discipline and coordination among these militants.

This successful operation will definitely breathes life back into a strained Yemen-US relationship over the security cooperation and extradition of some al-Qa'eda militants, mainly Jamal al-Badwi and Jaber Elbanna.

According to the Yemen embassy in Washington, the US government decided to return all non-emergency staff and their families who were ordered to leave Yemen following attacks on the US embassy and a foreigners' housing complex in Sana'a in March and April. This is a good gesture the White House is appeased by the Tairm operation that assures the US Yemen is no longer lenient with terrorists.

It seems also the Saudis are pleased and that was clear from the exchange of phone calls between president Saleh and Saudi official as well as the visit of Saudi assistant minister of interior to Sana'a to discuss with president Saleh the operation that thwarted a plot to carry out attacks in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia as police said it found Arab passports, including two belonging to Saudis in the raid on the hideout of al-Quaiti and his friends.

This shows that the new generation of al-Qa'eda has concentrated in Hadramaut and made use of its geographical proximity as well as cultural ties Saudi Arabia to maybe network easily with their friends in Saudi Arabia and engineer joint attacks. Hadramaut which has been now a ground for plotting and operating three terrorist attacks might have provided a good environment for al-Qa'eda to not only get sympathy but to recruit new members like Ahmed al-Mashjari, the Sayoun suicide bomber who was student at the faculty of medicine.

Tracing the connections of Mashjari possibly led the police to al-Quaiti and his friends. Similarly, the authorities said that a new cell was broken in a new crackdown, arresting one militant just two days after the crackdown in Tairm.

This means the arrest of two militants during Tarim attack may uncover other cells which would sabotage al-Qa'eda plans for sometime.

However, the remain of three al-Qa'eda escapees from the intelligence prison in 2006, mainly Naser al Wahishi, head of al-Qa'eda in Yemen, and Qasim al Raimi at large poses a serious threat for they will definitely fight back and take revenge for their colleagues. The two guys also remain important to secure the tenacity of the al Qa'eda.

In short, the real challenge Yemen security faces at the moment is how to face the reprisal threats of these two guys and reach their hideout.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qadhi ([email protected]) is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.