ZINJIBAR, Yemen, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Yemeni government military commanders say an al-Qaida faction is consolidating its control over a worrisome region in the south of the nation.
Militants with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula have been sparring with beleaguered government forces and unilaterally imposing strict Sharia law in the rural area in manner reminiscent of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
"They are already acting like they are rulers of a state," Brig. Gen. Muhammed al-Somli, commander of a government brigade in the al-Qaida stronghold of Abyan, told The Washington Post.
The Post said in a dispatch from one of it reporters in Abyan -- a first for a Western media outlet -- that much of Abyan and the city of Zinjibar were in the hands of al-Qaida. The militants, including fighters from other Middle East nations, have made it clear they want to establish a base for terrorist attacks on the United States.
Somli said his first priority was to keep al-Qaida out of the Yemeni capital of Aden, which has been in turmoil due to pro-democracy demonstrations in the past months.
He said the United States has been helping by training counter-terrorism units and using unmanned drones to take out al-Qaida leaders, but the assistance has so far not been enough to turn the tide.