By: Nasser Arrabyee
March 24, 2012
Al Qaeda in Yemen has been trying to stay a few steps ahead of the newly elected President and his bewildered and vulnerable new government in terms of controlling and expanding their network.
Since February 25, when the new President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi took the constitutional oath as a new elected president, Al Qaeda implemented more than 10 operations against military and security forces in a number of different provinces, especially in the southern provinces of Abyan, Al Baida and Hudramout where its presence is more concentrated and overt.
Earlier this week in Aden, the main southern city, the secret police (intelligence) arrested a man protesting in the streets among activists demanding the separation of the south from the north.
After being arrested, the man tried to shoot the officers with a firearm he was hiding.
The officers immediately shot him dead, put his body in their car and left. The man was wanted as an Al Qaeda operative, security sources confirmed to The Weekly later that day.
Dozens of angry youths from the Al Malla area in Aden started blocking the roads and setting fire to tyres, demanding the dead body of their 'brother'.
The incident clearly proves that Al Qaeda is stationed in Aden with supporters and sympathizers who are exploiting the chaos because of the separatist sentiment on the one hand, and the general political crisis of the entire country on the other.
Al Qaeda has tried numerous times before to take control over Aden but always failed because the coastal city is considered as a " red line" by the Yemeni government and its western friends.
If Aden falls under the control of Al Qaeda, the whole south and the Gulf of Aden will be under its control. This may mean the control of the maritime roads through which and estimated 2 million barrels of oil pass every day.
" Al Qaeda is everywhere, here in Aden too, but it is not as overt as in Abyan, here it is working secretly," said Hussein Othman, a tribal leader from Abyan who is based in Aden.
" You can also find them among those who fled the war," said Othman.
About 130,000 people from Zinjubar, the capital of Abyan, and the neighboring areas, are still away from their homes, the majority of them in the city of Aden, since May 2011, when Al Qaeda declared their areas a Taliban-style Islamic Emirates.
The 32-year old Raidan Anwar Kahtan, along with his 10-member family have been living in a secondary school in the coastal city of Aden, with about 1000 people ( known as internally displaced persons, IDPs), for nine months, dependant on aid from charities and organizations.
Like most of the IDPs, Raidan said he is fed up of living in government buildings and very eager to return home to Zinjubar.
Last month, Raidan Kahtan decided to go to Zinjubar, which only 45 km away, to see if he could return with his family.
Raidan Kahtan told the Ahram Weekly reporter who visited the the IDP’s centers in Aden on March 17, 2012, that two guards, a Pakistani and a Somali, prevented him from entering his house.
The partially destroyed house has become a weapons store for Al Qaeda, and the two non-Yemeni guards were safeguarding the weapons which were looted from the military camps in the areas under the control of Al Qaeda in various battles over the past few months.
" I said 'This is my house' and they said no, 'this is a weapon store, and we are assigned to safeguard it'," said Raidan sad and angry.
"When I went to their high commander, Jallal Beleidi, who was previously my neighbor before we were displaced and whom I knew very well, and he immediately ordered the guards to let me go in my house," said Raidan.
" I was shocked to see my house full of weapons and our city filled with foreigners," he exclaimed.
Raidan decided to return to Aden and leave his city to Al Qaeda, who call themselves Ansar Al Shariah (supporters of Islamic Shariah), in an attempt to attract more young people and support from both inside Yemen and abroad. The term Ansar Al Shariah, a seemingly "good" name, improves the image of the terrorist orientated Al Qaeda.
" I took some of my stuff, which we need here, and returned to this depressing place," said Raidan
Umm Mohammed is a mother of four residing in an IDP centre in the area of Crater, Aden.
The 38-year old woman said she tried four times to return to her house in Zinjubar after which she had become extremely fed up and depressed. The last time she went back was last February.
" Getting killed in my house is much better than staying here indefinitely," said Umm Mohammed, who has been in the IDP centre for about nine months, a high school full of people just like her who fled the war in the beginning. Now there is almost no war, but they cannot live with Al Qaeda.
The zealous Taliban-style treatment by Al Qaeda toward the people of her city made Umm Mohammed change her mind about staying in her house with these “strangers who prevented from living her life as she wants.”
Every time she went out, they ask her about her 'Mahram' a male relative who should be always with her.
Umm Mohammed, a widow, has been earning money by doing some work to support her four children, raising them and sending them to school.
"The last time I was there in February, Al Qaeda prevented me from going out with my red shoes," she said.
They proclaimed that red shoes would attract the attention of the men, and that Umm Mohammed is violating their interpretation of Islam.
She went back to the house and took an old pair of brown shoes, but they stopped her and forced her to return home again.
" Then I decided to go barefoot, because my children were very hungry and I needed to bring some food from the market," she said.
While walking in the street of the war-ravaged city with her body completely covered in black, one of Al Qaeda men saw a toe of her foot and he started to yell at her to go home or she will be beaten.
" Then I decided to return here, this camp however bad it is, it cannot not be worse than treatment of those strange people," she told the weekly.
On Sunday March 18, 2012, Al Qaeda operatives killed an American teacher in the south central city of Taiz. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility, saying the American man was a Christian missionary.
On Friday March 16, 2012, tribesmen from the southern-eastern province of Shabwa, mostly controlled by Al Qaeda, kidnapped a Swiss woman from the west coast city of Hodeidah.
"The Swiss hostage is safe somewhere here, and the kidnappers are waiting for negotiations for her release," Sheikh Ali Abdul Sallam, a tribal leader close to kidnappers, said on Tuesday.
The ministry of interior said 6 Somalians who were fighting with Al Qaeda in Abyan were arrested.