Yemen: Organized Chaos


August 1, 2011: President Saleh is still in a Saudi hospital, but is well enough to issue daily calls for a negotiated peace. The loose rebel coalition refuses to talk, and constantly demands that Saleh step down and the ruling coalition of tribal strongmen be reshuffled. This means some tribal leaders will lose power and cash, and these guys are not yet ready to take the hit. But time is against the Saleh coalition, as the growing shortages of fuel and food are spurring more tribesmen to grab their rifles (most adult Yemenis have one) and go fight the pro-Saleh (government) forces. Some Yemeni tribal leaders fear that if a new government is not formed, the country will end up like Somalia. But the Yemenis are not as savage as the Somalis, nor are the Islamic militants as strong. But the fighting in Yemen could go on for weeks, or months.

Low level fighting continues mainly in the southern province of Abyan, where nearly 100,000 civilians have fled because of the violence. A northern tribe is threatening the capital, but it is not strong enough to get past the army troops guarding the suburbs.

All the Islamic terrorist groups appear to have joined the fight. Most of these groups have pledged their allegiance to al Qaeda (and its new leader). But all the factions do not appear to be coordinating their attacks. Instead, the terrorists attack government forces whenever they can. This amounts to a few suicide bombings a week and some ambushes. Most of the anti-government tribesmen have turned against al Qaeda. This is partly because of opposition to the al Qaeda goal of a religious dictatorship, and partly anger at terrorist bombings that kill a lot of civilians. Several towns in Abyan province have been cleared of al Qaeda gunmen. Over the last two months, al Qaeda groups entered several towns and cities and tried to take over by force. But they were greatly outnumbered, and their fanaticism was no match for the fact that most adult Yemeni males have weapons. Anger enough of these guys, and you have a major problem.

Troops continue to fight al Qaeda gunmen in the southern city of Zinjibar. This violence has caused about 200 casualties (including at least 40 dead) so far. The government has been using air strikes to bomb known locations in the city the terrorists were using as bases. Most residents are opposed to the terrorists, and supply lots of information on what the al Qaeda men are up to. But sometimes this backfires. Three days ago, pro-government tribesmen advanced, the air force was not informed, and the pro-government gunmen were bombed. There were nearly a hundred casualties, including several dozen dead.

North of the capital, tribesmen have been firing on a Republican Guard base for the last few days. The government claims over 40 of the attackers have been killed, but the attackers keep shooting. The tribes have threatened to attack the main airport outside the capital. The tribesmen accused the Republican Guard of shelling their villages.

July 31, 2011:  In the southern port city of Aden, an al Qaeda suicide car bomber killed four soldiers.

July 30, 2011: Most of the major tribes in southern Yemen have formed the “Alliance of Yemeni Tribes.” This was done at the camp of 1st Armored Division, whose commander split with the government four months ago. The Alliance will be guided by a Consultative Council composed of 116 tribal leaders.

July 29, 2011: In the capital, pro and anti-government demonstrations took place. Most Yemenis want a new government, but the current one has enough support, and armed forces, to maintain control of most of the country.

July 28, 2011: Tribesmen attacked troops north of the capital. In the southern city of Taiz, troops fired on demonstrators.

The UAE has donated 40,000 tons of diesel fuel to Yemen, to help relieve the growing fuel shortage there.

July 27, 2011: Al Qaeda announced that it wanted $12 million ransom for three French aid workers it had kidnapped in May. This will not be paid, as the cash will be used to launch more terror attacks.

July 26, 2011: Al Qaeda's Arabia branch (headquartered in Yemen) released an audio message pledging loyalty to Ayman al Zawahiri as al Qaeda's new leader. The Islamic radicals also repeated their goal of taking control of Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda fled Saudi Arabia five years ago because of popular anger at terror attacks in the kingdom.

July 24, 2011: A suicide bomber attacked a military convoy in Aden province, killing four soldiers. The bomber was later identified as from Saudi Arabia (as are many members of al Qaeda in Yemen.)



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