Counter-Terrorism: Aborting The Mission From God


November 6,2008: Another side effect of the al Qaeda defeat in Iraq is the exodus of surviving foreign terrorists to their home countries. Many of these men are demoralized and no longer interested in terrorism. But dozens, perhaps hundreds, of these survivors are still in the fight. Three of them returned to Yemen earlier this year, and were found to have been behind the September attack on the U.S. embassy. This involved two suicide car bombs and several gunmen, and left 16 dead, including six attackers, six policemen and four civilians.

The police were quick to run down who the attackers were, and arrest those involved. This speed is the result of Yemen's policy of trying to reform Islamic terrorists. Many are jailed briefly, then released on their promise, and often assurances from family or tribal elders, that the man will terrorize no more. The government is rethinking this policy in light of the September attack, and several others that were aborted, or fell apart from lack of resources or poor planning. Police recently found at least one workshop used to install the bombs into cars used for suicide attacks. Dozens of weapons were also seized.

Many of the al Qaeda veterans returning from Iraq are very radicalized, and have no problem lying to the government, family or tribal elders about their intentions. This creates problems with the government, which still risks tribal unrest when they refuse to release a "former" Islamic terrorist, despite the man promising family and tribe that he will sin no more. Some families are willing to write off their wild child, but many are not. Tribal politics is still a big deal in Yemen, where peace is fragile, and highly dependent on a complex web of relationships between tribal elders and government leaders (who are often the same). But the government has drawn the line when it comes to young fanatics who believe they are above these traditional relationships, on a Mission From God, and can do what they please. In the aftermath of the September attack, the tribal leaders are stepping back. But the Islamic radicals are still there, and still being produced by radical clerics, and even some radicalized tribal leaders.



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