Al Qaeda is no longer able to take towns and hold them, as they did for about a year until last June. Most of the al Qaeda men are dead, captured, or have fled the country. The remainder, at least several hundred hard core terrorists, have gone underground to wage a guerilla war of bombings and assassinations. This has been met by an energetic government effort to find and arrest or kill these determined killers. The army leadership has an incentive to make this succeed because the al Qaeda death squads tend to go after intelligence specialists and senior officers. The Americans have helped by deploying over a dozen Predator and Reaper UAVs to cover Yemen. Most of the time these UAVs search for terrorists but 40 times this year the UAVs have fired missiles at al Qaeda, killing or wounding over two hundred of them, including at least a dozen senior al Qaeda leaders. This has limited the mobility of the terrorists, as the American UAVs prefer to hit their targets out in the open (to avoid civilian casualties). Seeking shelter in the cities is a bad option because there are too many Yemenis there who hate al Qaeda. This is due to al Qaeda bombings, which kill more civilians than the soldiers or police these attacks are aimed at. Civilians also don’t care for the way al Qaeda tends to terrorize (or even kill) civilians who are seen as hostile to the Islamic radical view of the world. Al Qaeda may be less corrupt than the government and most well-off Yemenis but murderous fanaticism of the Islamic radicals turns off potential supporters quickly. Some tribes, in remote parts of the desert east, will still offer sanctuary to al Qaeda, but that may end if the government declares a tribe or village as “pro-terrorist.” This can mean more checkpoints, arrests, and raids seeking al Qaeda. The recent failure of tribal uprisings in support of al Qaeda means the remaining pro-terrorist tribesmen are outnumbered and isolated. The southern tribes are still angry at the government but several years away from going to war over their grievances again. As long as al Qaeda keeps up its terror campaign there will be no informal truces, as there were for most of the last two decades. Yemen is on its way to being a very hostile place for al Qaeda.
The armed forces and pro-government tribes shattered the al Qaeda army, which was a coalition of al Qaeda members (many, if not most, of them foreigners) and allied tribes (who were seeking to establish a separate state in the south) earlier this year. Most of those southern tribesmen have renounced al Qaeda, seeking to protect their families and property from army retaliation.
Taking advantage of the military’s preoccupation with al Qaeda in the south, the northern Shia tribes have quietly driven many government officials out of three provinces and established a degree of autonomy. This has angered the Sunni tribes up there and created growing pressure from northern Sunni tribes to move some troops from the south to the north to push back this Shia control. Although Iran denies supporting the Shia tribes, the mood up there is very pro-Iran. The tribesmen shout the same anti-American and anti-Israel slogans the Iranians are so fond of. The government has caught smugglers trying to deliver Iranian weapons to the northern tribes and it’s no secret that the Shia tribes are getting a lot of cash from somewhere. The most likely source is Iran. The Shia tribes renounce any Iranian connection because they are caught between a Sunni majority to the south and a Sunni (and very anti-Iran) Saudi Arabia to the north. Just across the border are related Shia tribes in Saudi Arabia, who have long since learned to keep quiet and enjoy the slice of Saudi oil wealth they receive from the government.
Police in the south have raided hospitals down there five times this year, to arrest patients who are terrorists. The government is at odds with foreign aid groups and some local doctors who believe hospitals should be sanctuaries and free from police surveillance. The government points out that, once treated, the terrorists can go back to killing people. This does not bother many of those who wish to keep the police out of hospitals. There’s another factor to consider, al Qaeda will threaten to kill medical personnel who report the presence of wounded terrorists seeking treatment.
October 30, 2012: In the south, 295 kilometers from the coast, someone bombed a natural gas pipeline. This halts the export of $15 million of liquefied gas a day.
October 28, 2012: An American UAV killed three al Qaeda men (two Saudis and a Yemeni) in the north (Saada province, an area that is controlled by Shia tribes). This was the first UAV attack in the north and apparently targeted Saudi couriers delivering cash to Yemeni al Qaeda. There are still many wealthy Saudis who are willing to finance al Qaeda. Normally the Shia avoid al Qaeda, which officially considers Shia heretics that should be converted (to the Sunni form of Islam) or killed if they refuse. But Iran has taken the position that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and has provided sanctuary for al Qaeda leaders and encourages it allies to work, when possible, with Sunni terrorists like al Qaeda.
October 27, 2012: During a phone call with the president of Sudan (an indicted war criminal) the president of Yemen condemned the recent Israeli air raid on a Sudanese weapons factory. This despite the fact that Sudan is an ally of Iran (which supports Shia rebels in Yemen) and the bombed factory was owned by Iran. The factory was built so that Sudan could get around an international embargo on arms sales to Sudan (for slaughtering its own people, including Moslems who are not Arab and southern black Africans who are not Moslem). If there’s one thing most Moslems can agree on its hatred of Israel.
October 23, 2012: Police say they discovered and disrupted an al Qaeda plot to launch numerous attacks in four southern towns they had controlled earlier this year.
October 22, 2012: In the southern port of Aden an accidental explosion in a munitions warehouse killed six soldiers.
October 21, 2012: In the south an American UAV killed three al Qaeda men with a missile.
October 20, 2012: In the north five police, seeking to arrest a Shia tribesman, were wounded when a grenade was thrown at them. Most Shia tribesmen don’t recognize the authority of the police in tribal territory.
October 19, 2012: In the south (Abyan province) al Qaeda terrorists, including several men wearing suicide vests, attacked a military base. The attackers were repulsed but 14 soldiers and 12 terrorists died. Three of the suicide bombers managed to set their explosives off inside the base.
Police in Puntland (northern Somalia), acting on a tip, seized a Yemeni boat full of weapons meant for al Shabaab (the local al Qaeda franchise). Puntland asked Yemen to find out exactly who sent the boat and arrest them. Smuggling between Yemen and Somalia has long been a major, and illegal, business.