Yemen: The Battle For Abyan


August 31, 2011: President Saleh now says he will agree to new presidential elections, but does not specify a date. So many Yemenis don’t believe Saleh is really agreeing to anything. Demonstrations demanding elections, which began in January, continue. What drives a lot of demonstrators are growing shortages of fuel, electricity, food and water. Some of these shortages are caused by the constant unrest, but the underlying cause is a national water shortage and rising worldwide food prices. There is still no real civil war in Yemen, although it keeps getting closer to that. The problem is that many potential rebels have more immediate economic problems (like getting food and water). The country is an economic mess that keeps getting worse and no one has a convincing solution. Basically, the country is running out of water and that will ultimately cause a massive flood of refugees trying to get into neighboring Saudi Arabia and Oman. Thus the intense interest of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, who want to avoid an economic catastrophe in Yemen.

Fighting in southern Abyan province has caused nearly a hundred casualties a day over the last week. The violence is the result of army efforts to chase rebel tribesmen and al Qaeda gunmen out of several towns.  The government claims over 300 al Qaeda fighters have been killed in the last three months, mostly in Abyan. The rebellious tribesmen and al Qaeda gunmen made a big push in Abyan two months ago, and have remained in control of three towns. Most of the current fighting is taking place near the provincial capital, Zinjibar, where fighting has caused over 20,000 civilians to flee. In the last week, troops have regained some of the territory held by rebels and al Qaeda.

Illegal migrants from Somalia are increasing, reaching over a thousand a week this month. There are over 200,000 Somalis in Yemen refugee camps, and the government fears that some of the young men in those camps belong to al Shabaab.  

August 30, 2011:  In Abyan province, a vehicle in a convoy carrying the defense minister hit a land mine, killing two and wounding four troops. The minister was unhurt. The minister was inspecting efforts to defeat al Qaeda and rebellious tribesmen in Abyan.

August 27, 2011: Navy patrol boats off the coast of Abyan province sank a speedboat rapidly approaching one of the navy ships. The speedboat was believed to be a suicide bomb attack.



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