Yemen: Al Qaeda Fleeing UAVs For Safety In Syria


September 13, 2012: Although counted as another victory for the Arab Spring, Yemen is still the scene of frequent and large (over 10,000 people) demonstrations. In the north the protests are against the peace deal with former ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has immunity for all the killings committed during his decades of rule. Saleh still has thousands of heavily armed supporters, so that immunity deal will not get withdrawn without even more bloodshed. In the south the separatists are still out in the streets calling for once more dividing Yemen into two countries. The separatists are from the southern tribes, especially those in the sparsely populated east, who feel left out and at odds with all those educated and violent city folk. It's an ancient struggle, which the tribes have been losing of late.

In the southeast (Hadramout province) tribesmen complain that there have been so many UAV attacks on al Qaeda vehicles lately that civilians are reluctant to go to the hills for picnics. This was usually done in a convoy, full of armed men (for protection from bandits and hostile tribal factions) who could be misinterpreted as an al Qaeda convoy. This rarely happens, as the CIA demands a lot of intel before authorizing an attack. That's why there are so few civilian casualties.

The U.S. believes, based on intercepted communications, interrogations of captured terrorists and reports from informants on the ground that al Qaeda is sending more and more of its personnel to Syria. There, it is safer (no American UAVs and missile attacks) and the terrorists expect the Assad dictatorship to fall and the new government to reward al Qaeda (who are doing a lot of the fighting) to be given a sanctuary in Syria. That has happened before but usually did not last as some Islamic terror groups could not help attacking the secular Assad government. A post-Assad government will be no different in the eyes of some hard-core al Qaeda men. Getting out of Yemen isn't easy for known al Qaeda members (who need false documents and such), and even those who can easily pass as just another Yemeni need money and coordination with al Qaeda groups in Syria. So not as many al Qaeda men can travel to Syria as quickly as they would like.

The American UAV campaign has been a huge success, killing dozens of key al Qaeda personnel and many lower ranking terrorists. In the last two weeks at least three dozen al Qaeda have been killed by these attacks and so far this year about 200 have died. Many more al Qaeda have been killed or captured by the army in the south, which is out there daily looking for groups of al Qaeda trying to hide while planning more terror attacks and an eventual comeback.

September 11, 2012: In the capital a car bomb went off in an attempt to kill the Defense Minister. He escaped unharmed but seven security personnel and five civilians were killed. This is the sixth al Qaeda attempt to kill the Defense Minister.

Elsewhere in the capital the president fired two Saleh loyalists, Ali al Anisi (commander of the National Security force) and Saleh's half-brother Ali Saleh al Ahmar (director of the office of the armed forces' top commander). The new government is getting rid of Saleh loyalists as quickly as it can (without triggering a violent response from the many armed Saleh supporters who are still out there).

September 10, 2012: An army operation in eastern Yemen killed the second-in-command for AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), Said al Shehri, along with six other al Qaeda men. AQAP is largely in Yemen, but Shehri is a Saudi, who had been held at Guantanamo Bay prison and was released at Saudi insistence in 2007, and put through a rehabilitation process that failed.

September 8, 2012: In the south (Abyan province) troops killed at least five al Qaeda and, with the help of pro-government tribesmen, captured another 28. Large (several dozen or more) groups of al Qaeda gunmen are still roaming around the south and southeast. Many of these groups are basically on their own and are being hunted by the army and American UAVs (which provide lots of intel for the army, as well as using missiles to kill known al Qaeda members).

Elsewhere in the south (al Baidha province) a UAV missile attack killed four al Qaeda men travelling in a car.

September 6, 2012: Police arrested four al Qaeda men north of the capital. Al Qaeda cells (of three or more men) are known to be in and around the capital because of the regular terror attacks launched in the capital.

In the east (Hadramout province), a UAV attack killed six al Qaeda men. This was the fourth such attack in Hadramout province in the last two weeks.

September 5, 2012: In the capital an al Qaeda death squad shot dead an army colonel. This was the third killing of this type in the last two weeks.

September 4, 2012: Someone bombed a portion of the oil pipeline going to the Red Sea terminal. This will interrupt export of 125,000 barrels a day for at least a few days.

Foreign donor nations have agreed to give Yemen $6.4 billion for reconstruction. Yemen had asked for $11 billion but donors are concerned about corruption (stealing the money) and incompetence (not spending the money effectively) and are putting lots of conditions on the money. Yemeni officials will try very hard to get around these conditions and steal much of the money anyway.

September 2, 2012: In central Yemen (al Baidha province) an air force attack missed its target (vehicles carrying al Qaeda) and hit nearby civilians, killing ten of them. Elsewhere in the area a UAV attack killed five al Qaeda men.



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