High season for Al-Qa’ida in YemenU.S. accuses Yemen of being lenient with terrorists [Archives:2008/1156/Reportage]

May 19 2008

The Media Line / Mohammed Al-Asaadi
Following a spate of attacks against Western interests in Yemen, many Westerners are now fleeing the country due to travel warnings and a deteriorating security situation. Although Yemen is an ally of the United States in the war on terrorism, the U.S. feels 'Sana is not doing enough to fight terrorists in the poverty-stricken country.

Western families fill up the small and only departure hall of 'Sana International Airport over the past few weeks, queuing for European and American destinations. They have been instructed to leave Yemen for security reasons, though some have told Yemeni friends they don't feel threatened.

Last week four French families departed the capital, 'Sana, when Total Fina Alf, a French company operating in Yemen, advised its employees to evacuate their families as a result of a security assessment report made by the company.

Attacks on Foreign Interests

Credit for the April 30 attack that targeted the Italian embassy in 'Sana was claimed by the so-called Yemen Warrior Brigade, an affiliate of Al-Qa'ida, according to a statement run on a website. The two-mortar attack did not reach the embassy, exploding instead in the nearby parking area of the Customs Authority.

The Yemeni government – as is its policy – did not release any crucial details about this attack or previous ones, continuing to refrain from dealing with media.

The U.S. embassy in 'Sana urged its non-emergency workers and families to leave the country and also advised U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen.

“Following the March 18 attack on the U.S. Embassy and the April 6 attack on the Hadda residential compound in 'Sana, the Department of State has ordered the departure of non-emergency Embassy staff and family members from Yemen,” reads a warning message issued on April 11.

Al-Qa'ida claimed responsibility for all the attacks including the one of March 18, when three mortar rounds landed in the vicinity of the U.S. embassy and in a nearby girls' school, wounding 13 schoolchildren and five government security personnel.

On April 6 three explosions, claimed by Al-Qa'ida, rocked the Hadda residential compound, where foreigners, mostly American, live. No injuries were reported.

Later, on April 9, two small Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were discovered outside the office of Canadian Nexen, an energy company in 'Sana. According to security authorities, one device exploded and the other was defused.

A day later two other IEDs were discovered unexploded in the vicinity of the western wall of the Hadda residential compound.

U.S. Disappointed

The U.S. State Department and FBI officials continue to show concern over Yemen's efforts to combat terrorism. The 2007 State Department Country Report on Terrorism accused Yemen of being lenient with terrorists despite U.S. pressure.

Dell L. Dailey, coordinator of the Office for Counterterrorism in the State Department, said on the release of the report last week, that Yemen continued to implement a “surrender” program with terrorists.

Dailey added that the Yemeni courts had released, pending their appeals, several subjects wanted by the United States for acts of terrorism.

“Most notably on October 15, the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing and February 2006 prison escapee, Jamal Al-Badawi, surrendered to Yemeni authorities. He was released to house arrest on October 17, 2007 under the terms of this surrender program. Following substantial U.S. pressure, he was back in jail by October 29,” says the report.

The report also says the government's capacity for stemming terrorism financing remains limited.

So far, there has been no official reaction to the report from the Yemeni government.

'Abd Al-Bari Tahir, a political analyst, said that while Yemen suffered from terrorism like any other country, details in the report indicated there were deficiencies in Yemen's security procedures and in its fight against terrorism. “Terrorism needs a whole package of solutions, including cultural, educational, and moderate mosque sermons,” Tahir told The Media Line.

“The government fights terrorism either by confrontation or by conspiring with terrorists to achieve political gains, or using them against other parties. This is not enough in a poor country with a deteriorating economy and high rate of unemployment,” he said.

Al-Qa'ida Changing Tactics

A recent statement by Al-Qa'ida instructs its members to control the marine passages, mainly these surrounding the Arabian Peninsula, and particularly those in Yemen. The statement, entitled, “Marine Terrorism: A Strategic Necessity,” appeared on The Ekhlas Islamic Network, a website promoting Al-Qa'ida views and news.

“It has become very crucial to develop the battlefield to reach the sea,” the statement urges the Jihadists. “The sea remains the strategic step forward to dominate the world and reinstate the Islamic Caliphate.”

Generational Conflict

The former chief of the personal guards of the Al-Qa'ida leader said there was a huge conflict between the younger and older generations of the network. Na'sir Al-Bahri, a taxi driver in 'Sana, who is the subject of a security-monitoring program, said: “The new generation is very enthusiastic about Jihad. They want to just to fight, and they accuse the older generation of falling apart and getting weaker to continue the Jihad mission.”

“The context of the recent attacks discloses the background of the attackers,” Nabil Al-Sufi, a political and security writer told The Media Line. “It is the A-Zarqawi generation of Al-Qa'ida.

“This is clear from the immature operations, weaker attacks and easy and public targets.

Most important is that these attacks have a security nature with no political agenda, which is the main objective of the older generation of Al-Qa'ida,” he said.