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Jan 2nd, 2010

West, and Extremists, Bolster Assets in Yemen

U.S., Britain to fund terror unit; Somali fighters vow to help al-Qaida


New front in terror fight (NBC Nightly News, Jan. 3, 2010) — Yemen is turning into a base for international terrorist operations. NBC’s Mike Viquiera reports. (02:42)

The Associated Press and Reuters via
January 2, 2010

SAN’A, Yemen — In the latest sign that Yemen — the country where the suspect in the attempted airliner bombing recently spent some time — is becoming a focus for both the West and extremists, Britain announced that it and the U.S. have agreed to fund a counterterrorism police unit there.

The news came a day after Gen. David Petraeus, head of Central Command, said that U.S. military aid to Yemen would more than double from last year’s $68 million.

Also Friday, Somalia’s Islamist rebel group al-Shabab said it was ready to send reinforcements to al-Qaida in Yemen should the U.S. carry out retaliatory strikes, and urged other Muslims to follow suit.

In London, the British government said Sunday that Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Barack Obama were backing the new police unit to tackle the rising terrorist threat from Yemen. Obama on Saturday tied al-Qaida’s Yemen arm to the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a U.S. passenger jet over Detroit.

Brown’s Downing Street Office said the U.K. and the U.S. had also agreed to increase support for Yemen’s coast guard operation. Pirates operating in the waters between Somalia and Yemen have seized four ships in the last week. …

Brown called last week for a high-level international meeting later this month to devise ways to counter radicalization in Yemen. He said an international approach is needed to combat the increasing influence of al-Qaida in Yemen. The terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the failed attack. …

A senior official in the Obama administration said the United States would pursue every option to fight extremism.

Petraeus, Yemen leader meet

In Yemen, the country’s president met with Petraeus on Saturday to discuss boosting military cooperation.

Petraeus also delivered a letter from Obama to President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Details of the letter were not released.

Obama details jet suspect’s terror ties
(NBC Nightly News, Jan. 2, 2010) – President Barack Obama says al-Qaida was behind the attempted Christmas Day bombing. NBC’s Mike Viquiera reports. (03:03)

On Friday, Petraeus told reporters in Baghdad, Iraq, that U.S. counter-terrorism aid to Yemen “will more than double this coming year.”

Petraeus said Yemen was struggling to overcome many challenges — including a fall in oil revenues, a very young and rapidly growing population, and an insurgency making full use of the country’s rugged terrain — all of which made the country an attractive possible base for terrorism.

“Al-Qaida are always on the lookout for places where they might be able to put down roots,” he said. …

U.S. officials have said they were looking at ways to expand military and intelligence cooperation with Yemen, the poorest Arab state.

Washington has increased training, intelligence and military equipment provided to Yemeni forces, helping them to stage raids against suspected al-Qaida hideouts last month.

On lookout for Somalis

Yemen also said it was tightening security along its coastline to prevent Islamist militants infiltrating from Somalia. …

Full story


1/3/10 Update

Terror Threats Shut Yemens U.S., U.K. Embassies

January 3, 2010

SAN’A, Yemen — The U.S. and Britain closed their embassies in Yemen on Sunday in the face of al-Qaida threats, after both countries announced an increase in aid to the government to fight the terror group linked to the failed attempt to bomb a U.S. airliner on Christmas.

The confrontation with al-Qaida’s offshoot in Yemen has gained new urgency since the 23-year-old Nigerian accused in the attack, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told American investigators he received training and instructions from the group’s operatives in Yemen. President Barack Obama said Saturday that the al-Qaida offshoot was behind the attempt.

The White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said the American Embassy, which was attacked twice in 2008, was shut Sunday because of an “active” al-Qaida threat. A statement on the embassy’s Web site announcing the closure cited “ongoing threats” from the terror group and did not say how long it would remain closed. …

Al-Qaida has killed a number of top security officials in outlying provinces in recent months, underscoring Yemeni government’s lack of control over the country. Tribes hold sway in the region, and many of them are discontented with the central government and have given refuge to al-Qaida fighters, both Yemenis and other Arabs coming from Saudi Arabia or war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden and the site of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, has a weak central government whose authority does not extend far beyond the capital San’a. In addition to battling al-Qaida fighters, it also faces two separate internal rebellions in the north and south. …

There have been a spate of assaults on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen and it has closed several times over past threats. In an attack in September 2008, gunmen and two vehicles packed with explosives attacked the U.S. Embassy, killing 19 people including an 18-year-old American woman and six militants. None of those killed or wounded were U.S. diplomats or embassy employees. Al-Qaida in Yemen claimed responsibility.

In March 2003, two people were shot dead and dozens more are wounded as police clash with demonstrators trying to storm the embassy. In March 2008, three mortars missed the U.S. Embassy and crashed into a high school for girls nearby, killing a security guard.

Last January, gunmen in a car exchanged fire with police at a checkpoint near the embassy, hours after the embassy received threats of a possible attack by al-Qaida. Nobody was injured.

As recently as July, security was upgraded in San’a after intelligence reports warned of attacks planned against the U.S. Embassy. …

Full story


1/5/10 Update

Yemeni Officials, Fearing Backlash, Play Down Partnership with U.S.

By Sudarsan Raghavan
The Washington Post
January 5, 2010


SANAA, YEMEN — As the United States ramps up its counterterrorism role here, senior Yemeni officials are publicly playing down the partnership, fearing that the government could pay a heavy political price for aligning with the United States and appearing too weak to control al-Qaeda on its own.

The head of Yemen’s national security agency declared over the weekend that the threat posed by al-Qaeda had been exaggerated and that Yemen is not a haven for militants, the state news agency Saba reported. The comments by Ali Muhammad al-Anisi came a day after Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, promised increased U.S. support for Yemen on a visit here. Since Anisi’s statement, al-Qaeda threats have forced the U.S., British, German, French and Japanese embassies to close.

While playing down the U.S. role seems designed to prevent a domestic backlash, it also raises questions about the government’s long-term commitment and will to fight al-Qaeda in the wake of the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day, analysts say. Yemen’s fragile government is in a delicate balancing act between its allegiance to the United States and tribal, political and religious forces that resent U.S. interference in Yemen and sympathize with al-Qaeda’s ideology. …

In parliament, opposition politicians are warning that many Yemenis will support al-Qaeda if the conflict escalates. Tribal leaders and lawmakers in the south are furious about what they say was a U.S.-sponsored airstrike on civilians two weeks ago. Yemen’s government says the strike targeted militants and their relatives. …

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi warned that the United States “should learn from its experiences in Pakistan and Afghanistan and not repeat the mistakes in Yemen, both in dealing with the government of Yemen and confronting al-Qaeda.” The United States and other Western powers, he said, need to provide long-term economic development to reduce poverty and raise educational standards, which he said can help combat terrorism “in a more effective fashion than just using military force.” …

Over the past two weeks, opposition politicians have spoken out against alleged civilian casualties in a Dec. 17 U.S.-backed airstrike. Government officials were so alarmed that they began to publicly brand the opposition as al-Qaeda sympathizers.

After al-Qaeda militants bombed the USS Cole in 2000, killing 17 American sailors, Yemen and the United States worked closely to combat terrorism. But by 2003, the United States was focused on Iraq, and U.S. counterterrorism officials say the Yemeni government became less eager to tackle al-Qaeda, fearing that it would alienate powerful tribes that provided support and protection to al-Qaeda figures. Meanwhile, part of Yemen’s security forces was thought to be infiltrated by al-Qaeda sympathizers. …

On Monday, Yemeni forces fought armed members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as they were moving through the mountainous Arhab area north of Sanaa, the capital, the Interior Ministry said. The group of militants was led by Mohamed Ahmed al-Haniq, but he and an unspecified number of fighters escaped during the clash, the ministry said. Two other militants were killed, and two were injured. …

Full story


1/8/10 Update

Military Chief: No U.S. Troops to Yemen

Image: Adm. Mike Mullen
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the Yemeni government doesn’t want foreign troops on the ground. (Photo credit: Robert E. Klein / AP)

January 7, 2010

NEWPORT, R.I. — The nation’s top military leader said Friday the United States has no plans to send troops into Yemen, and that country has made it clear it does not want U.S. ground forces there.

In an address Friday to hundreds of students at the Naval War College in Newport, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed issues raised by the Christmas Day attempt to bring down a Detroit-bound jet by a Nigerian man whom the FBI says told them he was trained by al-Qaida in Yemen. …

Later, he told reporters he considered Yemen an emerging safe-haven for al-Qaida, and said the U.S. would broaden its support with additional diplomatic engagement. …

Yemeni officials said this week that they accept help from U.S. forces in training, intelligence and logistical support. Direct combat or large force deployments would not be acceptable, the officials said. …

Full story


1/17/12 Update

Al-Qaida Raises Flag Over Yemen Town, Pledges Allegiance to Terrorist Leader

The historical Radda castle, above, was overtaken by al-Qaida militants on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012. (Photo credit: Khaled Abdullah / Reuters)

The Associated Press and Reuters via
January 16, 2012

SANAA, Yemen — Islamist militants have seized full control of a town southeast of Yemen’s capital, raising their flag over the citadel, overrunning army positions, storming the local prison and pledging allegiance to al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, residents said Monday.

The capture of Radda in Bayda province, some 100 miles south of capital Sanaa, underscores the growing strength of al-Qaida in Yemen as it continues to take advantage of the weakness of a central government struggling to contain nearly a year of massive political unrest. …

Bayda province is a key transit route between the capital and Yemen’s southern provinces where the al-Qaida militants are most active. Islamist militants have already seized control of a swath of territory and towns in Abyan province in southern Yemen. …

The move is likely to raise concern in neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, and the United States about al-Qaida’s spreading presence in Yemen, which lies next to important oil and cargo shipping lanes in the Red Sea.

Washington and Riyadh are pushing for implementation of a deal signed in November under which Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh formally handed power to his deputy to calm unrest and restore order in the impoverished country.

Radda residents said the militants, who stormed the town of 60,000 people overnight Saturday, had killed two policemen, seized the local prison and five police vehicles and were besieging government buildings.

Full story


Topical reports on this site

American-Born Terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki Killed in Yemen (Oct. 2, 2011)

Yemen Air-Freight Package Bombs (Nov. 6, 2010)

Yemeni Clerics Threaten Jihad (Jan. 14, 2010)

Yemen-Somalia Terror Nexus (Jan. 12, 2010)

Yemen: Uncertain Ally Against al-Qaida (Jan. 9, 2010)

Obama Opens Third War Front (Dec. 28, 2009)

Yemen Link in Airline Terror Plot (Dec. 26, 2009)

Christmas Terrorism Alert (Dec. 25, 2009)

Obama Fires Missiles into Yemen (Dec. 19, 2009)

Where is Osama Bin Laden? (Dec. 10, 2009)

Chuck Hagel on National Defense (Sept. 3, 2009)

Obama War Strategy Setback (Aug. 29, 2009)

Iraq: Terrorist Training Ground (Sept. 18, 2008)

Image: Smoke outside the U.S. embassy in San'a, Yemen
Foreign fighters return home from Iraq to launch new attacks against U.S. targets. Smoke billows from the U.S. Embassy complex in Sanaa, Yemen, after a deadly car bombing on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008. (Photo credit: Yemen News Agency)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — January 2, 2009

Image: Helen Suzman and Nelson Mandela
Helen Suzman with Nelson Mandela in February 1990
(Photo credit: John Parkin / AP file)

Farewell Helen, You Were My Hero

Helen-Suzman_1993.jpg Helen Suzman 1993 picture by Rifleman-Al
Aubrey Immelman meeting with Helen Suzman during a visit to South Africa in 1993 to study the transition from apartheid state to nonracial democracy in the run-up to Nelson Mandela’s election as president in 1994.

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that South African anti-apartheid icon Helen Suzman, one of the first white lawmakers to fight against the injustices of whites-only rule in that country, died on Thursday, January 1, 2009 at the age of 91.

12 Responses to “Battle Lines Are Drawn in Yemen”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Uncertain Ally Against al-Qaida Says:

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  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Yemeni Clerics Threaten Jihad Says:

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  7. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Yemen Air-Freight Package Bombs Says:

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