By NASSER ARRABYEE
July 25, 2011
SANA, Yemen — Fighting in southern Yemen has intensified in recent days as tribesmen in Abyan Province sided with government troops against Islamic militants.
Local residents said that the militants remain only in pockets of the Abyan capital, Zinjibar, and that it was largely under the control of government troops and the tribesmen, who closed entrances of the city four days ago.
The tribesmen were driven to overcome their deep suspicion of the central government after the fighting between militants and government forces pushed an estimated 90,000 people from their homes.
Dozens of militants have been reported killed since the fighting began in March, including some foreign fighters. The Yemeni authorities identified a suicide bomber who struck a convoy of military vehicles on Sunday as a Saudi named Turki Saad al-Sharani. The Ministry of Defense said the convoy was carrying reinforcements to Zinjibar.
The militants in Zinjibar call themselves Ansar Shariah, or supporters of Islamic law. It is not clear how closely allied the militants are with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group the United States holds to be a significant threat.
Ayed al-Shabwani, a militant leader in the eastern province of Marib, was buried in his home village of Al Bayda on July 20 after he was killed in Zinjibar, according to relatives and friends who witnessed his funeral and burial.
Musab Mabkhoot al-Sharif, the son of a leader of an opposition Islamic party, was also killed in Zinjibar and buried in Marib two weeks ago.