Counter-Terrorism: The Yemen Arrangement Unravels

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January 25, 2008: Yemen has offered a $75,000 reward for information about who killed two Belgian tourists on January 11th. Gunmen opened fire on a bus full of tourists, also killing two Yemenis and wounding four other Belgians. Counter-terrorism experts have long suspected that al Qaeda leaders had put a ban on operations in Yemen, in order to keep the local security forces inactive, because the place is so useful as a terrorist hiding place and a transit node for movement into other areas. So, who will turn in the terrorists? Some local anti-extremist or possibly the local al Qaeda franchise? Or, perhaps, if the latter are the ones who conducted the attack, will al Qaeda Center turn them in or maybe even arranging to bump off some of their leaders, as may have happened in Iraq?

The last thing al Qaeda wants is lots of counter-terrorism activity in Yemen. This is where Osama bin Ladens family originally came from, and he still has kin there. The Yemen government is willing to go along with the al Qaeda "truce", as this is good for the lucrative tourist trade. But with this shooting incidents, many tourists have cancelled trips. Some Yemeni officials would like to run al Qaeda out of the country. But most officials see this is as impractical. Many Yemenis are quite conservative in their religious beliefs, and tend to agree with al Qaeda. While this is a minority of the population, it is a fanatic one, willing to cause lots of trouble if stirred up.

 


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