Two embassies, two tourist groups, two oil facilities and six security checkpoints were targetedAl-Qaeda claims rocket attack on oil constructions in Mareb [Archives:2008/1170/Front Page]

July 7 2008

Aqeel Al-Halali
For Yemen Times

SANA'A, July 6 ) An armed group) allegedly affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) declared last week that it was responsible for a rocket attack that targeted an oil construction in Marib, located to the northeast of Sana'a.

According to a press release attributed to the so-called “Yemen Warriors Battalions,” armed Islamists launched three Katyusha rackets on the Safer oil refinery in Marib on June 25 with the goal of “rupturing the artery of Zionist – Crusader supply.” The press release didn't mention the success or the failure of the attack, which came less than a month after a similar attack that targeted oil refineries in Aden.

Al-Qaeda armed operations have been increasing since the suicide bombing that targeted a Spanish tourist group in Marib last July, especially in the governorates of Marib and Hadramout.

A recent American report on the topic said that the attacks that recently took place showed a lack of Yemeni and American security apparatus alerts. It criticized the Yemeni government's preoccupation with “facing the internal challenges that threaten its existence and ignored the Al-Qaeda organization as required,” an indication to the war in Sa'ada between Houthis and the government.

According to observers, Al-Qaeda's new generation refuses to negotiate with the government as it depends a strategy that aims to undermine the security apparatuses by carrying out attacks against both security and the foreign interests in Yemen as well as striking the government's financial resources through attacking tourists and oil constructions.

The Jamestown Foundation, an American group concerned with terrorism issues, considers the recent attacks in Yemen as “a message to the Yemeni government and the international community to show that strategy of creating chaos that Al-Qaeda follows in Iraq is transferred to fighters in their original homeland.”

The former Minister of Finance, Saif Al-Asali, told the Yemen Times that Yemen was affected by Al-Qaeda attacks, pointing out that war on terrorism has consumed the government's financial resources.

Al-Asali said that Al-Qaeda attacks have undermined the investment and economic atmosphere in Yemen, halting the international community's efforts to reduce poverty in Yemen, which is considered a “fertilized environment for ideological terrorism.”

Hadramout, one of the largest Yemeni governorates consisting of 30 districts, witnessed two attacks on two security checkpoints in Wadi Ser in December 2007, injuring six security soldiers. Last January, an Al-Qaeda armed group attacked 15 tourists from Belgium in Daw'an district resulted in two of the tourists' death, the death of a Yemeni driver and injuries to the others.

Two days after the Daw'an attack, two soldiers were killed and five others injured in a traffic accident, according to official sources, while they were carrying out a campaign to chase the tourist group's attackers in Daw'an.

Additionally, a soldier was killed and seven were injured in separate attacks by armed men who targeted two security checkpoints in Daw'an. The security authorities accused drug smugglers of launching the two attacks.

Marib received the worst of the Al-Qaeda attacks when the Spanish tourist group was targeted, shortly after the head detective in the governorate, Colonel Ali Qusailah, was murdered in March, 2007. The governorate witnessed a relative calm in the last quarter of 2007, during which time Al-Qaeda cells were notably active in Hadhramout governorate.

Calm in Marib can be attributed to the extensive security deployment after the Spanish tourists were targeted and because security forces were able to get rid of an Al-Qaeda cell accused of killing Qusailah. The Ministry of the Interior declared last February that it had foiled a terrorist attack that aimed to explode an oil pipeline in Wadi Anshar, located in Sirwah area, Marib province.

The calm didn't last long though as Al-Qaeda was able to attack a military patrol in the old city of Marib resulting in the death of two soldiers in the middle of last April.

According to these reports, most Al-Qaeda attacks took place in Marib and Hadramout governorates. Some observers attribute that to the isolated geographical nature in the two provinces, whose area tribes also cooperate with Al-Qaeda.

Last March, Sana'a city was also subjected to an Al-Qaeda shelling that targeted a girl's school near the American embassy that injured soldiers while they were serving their patrol in the embassy.

Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack a few hours after the blast that occurred in Ji'ar village in the Abyan province to the southeast of Sana'a.

Last April, Sana'a witnessed three armed attacks, two of which were claimed by Al-Qaeda. One of the attacks targeted a foreigners' housing complex in the Hadda zone and the other targeted the Italian embassy in Al-Safia neighborhood and caused some damage to the Yemeni Customs Authority. The third incident, which wasn't adopted by Al-Qaeda or any other group, two explosions went off near an oil company in the Hadda neighborhood. One of the bombs exploded but caused no damage and the other was foiled by the security apparatuses at the office.

Last May, Al-Qaeda activity slowed notably and was restricted to two press releases, the first of which saying that the group launched artillery shells on the presidential palace and in the other, threatened to launch attacks in the Arab Peninsula against non-Muslims including journalists and tourists.

Last month, Al-Qaeda declared responsibility for the two blasts that took place near the oil pipe line in Al-Buraiqah district of Aden governorate, pointing out that it targeted the oil pipeline with explosive shells.

Public prosecution is considering the case of 36 people accused of collaborating with Al-Qaeda and attempting to carry out attacks against oil constructions in Marib and Hadramout in 2006. Jaber Al-Bana, who the U.S. accuses of participating in the 2000 USS Cole bombing, is one of the accused.