BY: Abdul Hakim Hilal
FOR THE YEMEN POST
Last month, two contradictory turning points took place in Yemen; the first: regime’s sincere fight against terrorism and second: the regime was again under Al-Qaeda’s threat.
The war on Al-Qaeda started when a twin-operation was carried out against Al-Qaeda hideouts and training sites in the provinces of Abyan and Sana’a in the south and north mid last month.
The war dramatically escalated when a third terror operation strike in the southern Shabwa province took place a week later.
These raids arose many questions, including those answered by the government, while analysts had a different point of view.
Others were also answered by Saeed Abdu Al-Jumahi, a specialist in terrorism issues, who classified the national map of Al-Qaeda operatives when he was asked the following two questions.
1- Al-Qaeda received severe strikes in Sana’a, Abyan and Shabwa, and an intensive hunt against extremists continue. The question remains, were the targeted places in the three provinces the real map of Al-Qaeda’s existence in the country?
Answer: The government knew the real map of Al-Qaeda and the strikes were focused on real terrorist hideouts. However, Mareb province should have been targeted before other sites because real Al-Qaeda operatives, including head of Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula Nasser Al-Wuhaishi, are hiding in it.
Mareb is Al-Qaeda’s hotbed and the government realizes this and it is the semi-permanent home of Al-Wuhaishi. Many terrorist attacks were carried out in Mareb that targeted policemen and tourists. Mareb remains a safe haven for Al-Qaeda.
2- Why was not Mareb targeted?
Answer: Two reasons stand for why military operations were not carried out in Mareb last month; first might be the lack of enough information about Al-Qaeda’s existence and activity in it, and the second is that the tribes in Mareb and neighboring Jawf province usually have good association with Al-Qaeda.
Al-Wuhaish is moving among Mareb, Abyan and Shabwa but he is more free to walk in Mareb, as he is now protected by tribesmen.
International reports supported Al-Jumahi’s remarks, noting that Al-Qaeda was protected by tribesmen in Yemen, in religiously-conservative southern areas where military intervention seems impossible.
Abyan….Al-Qaeda’s No.2 Area in Yemen
Classifying Yemeni cities hosting Al-Qaeda, Al-Jumahi said Abyan comes after Mareb where not only Al-Qaeda members are located but also Al-Qaeda supporters, known as Al-Qaeda hosts.
‘Those sheltering and defending Al-Qaeda terrorists are not largely different from real members…. The only difference is that they are not enrolled in the organization but have the same ideology.’
‘Al-Qaeda’s real members and their hosts are common in goals and the ways to meet goals….the hosts are working on Al-Qaeda’s agenda even without agreement. Sometimes they attack military posts killing soldiers and attack domestic vital facilities.
Before the terror raids, rioting hit most of the south as if Al-Qaeda implicitly assigned groups to do its job…..even in cases under different justifications, he said.
‘It is not ruled out whether some people, seen as fans of the southern movement, contributed to implementing a terror agenda in the south, meeting with terrorists with the goal of fighting the government.’
World reports noted that the movement and fundamentalist groups are operating normally now under unified goals after Al-Qaeda announced its support for demands of southerners and refusal to oppressing them.
In Al-Jumaihi’s opinion, Shabwa comes in third place after Mareb and Abyan, placing Hadramout in fourth place though it witnessed many terrorist attacks including killing Belgian and South Korean tourists as well as Yemeni policemen. According to him, the existence of key Al-Qaeda leaders such as Fahd Al-Qus’a in Shabwa makes it a very important site of Al-Qaeda in the country.
‘Al-Awlaqi is a skillful leader who can convince young militants to join the terrorist organization, with reports he now has hundreds of prepared militants.’
Al-Qus’a remains the third most wanted terrorist by the U.S. after Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
Al-Qus’a was accused of being behind the bombing of the U.S. Cole Destroyer in the Gulf of Aden in 2000 and the U.S.-born-and-brought up Al-Awlaqi is accused of involvement in inciting a U.S. Muslim officer to kill 13 U.S. troops in an army base in Texas.
Al-Jumahi, however, said that he could not confirm if Al-Awlaqi had officially joined Al-Qaeda, saying the man was born and brought up in the U.S. and he visited most mosques in the country and worked as a mosque Imam in Virginia and California.
He was accused of working for Al-Qaeda in the Arab Gulf after he left Virginia, arrested in Yemen in mid 2006 under the U.S. request and released in December 2007.
On Al-Qus’a, Al-Jumahi wondered how the man was designated as the third most wanted man after Osama and Ayman globally, saying the designation may imply other meanings.
It is true that he is a key Jihadist but not to a very far level.
Sana’a ….Open Arena
Back to the national map of Al-Qaeda, Sana’a, remains a perfect terror hub which the organization can’t exclude because of vital domestic and foreign interests located in it.
Al-Qaeda was annoyed by security forces inside the capital and was forced to go to the fringes where its operations were believed to be too strong for security forces.
Before Al-Qaeda moved to the fringes of the capital, Sana’a was mainly targeted by Al-Qaeda attacks, with security measures toughened and announcements emerging that Al-Qaeda members with weapons were seized and tried. Reports also surfaced that security forces were coordinating with released Al-Qaeda members who helped authorities arrest other Al-Qaeda loyalists.
All this helped weaken Al-Qaeda, forcing its operatives to move to other cities. But the two major terrorist operations in the Capital Secretariat in 2009, against the U.S. Embassy and a South Korean delegation, showed the organization remained in Sana’a.