Sunday, March 4, 2012

Al Qaeda clashes, blasts kill 35 soldiers in Yemen

March 4, 2012
ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - At least 35 Yemeni soldiers were killed in twin suicide bombings and ensuing clashes with al Qaeda-linked fighters on Sunday, medical sources said, continuing a wave of attacks launched since a new president took office vowing to fight the group.
The campaign against al Qaeda is a key demand of Yemen's new leader by Washington, which backed his succession and has waged its own campaign of assassinations by drone strikes against alleged members of the group.
A Yemeni army officer said at least 20 of the Islamist militants also died in the fighting in the country's south, an unstable territory near oil shipping routes through the Red Sea.
Residents and local officials said cars blew up near military positions at the southern and western entrances to the city of Zinjibar, near the Gulf of Aden.
The Yemeni army sent reinforcements to Zinjibar from the nearby port city of Aden after the blasts.
Medics at a military hospital in Aden said the bodies of 35 soldiers had been brought in, and dozens more had been wounded. They said the number of casualties was likely to rise.
The attacks underscore the challenges facing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi as he tries to stabilise Yemen after a year of protests against his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and military infighting that took Yemen to the brink of civil war.
Months of anti-Saleh protests weakened central government control over whole swathes of Yemen to the benefit of militants linked to al Qaeda, principally a group called Ansar al-Sharia, which has expanded its foothold in the south.
A text message purportedly from the group said it used car bombs to start Sunday's attacks. Ansar al-Sharia said it killed more than 50 soldiers, captured dozens of others, and seized weapons and equipment including a tank and an anti-aircraft gun.
Zinjibar has been the site of regular clashes between the army and Islamist fighters who took the city for several months last year. The government said in September it had "liberated" Zinjibar from militant hands, but fighting has continued.
"The heroes of the armed forces have dealt a painful blow to the al Qaeda elements in ... Abyan," the defence ministry said in a text message, referring to the province where Zinjibar is located.
Residents of Jaar, which lies about 15 km (10 miles) north of Zinjibar and is controlled by Islamist fighters, said they used megaphones to urge people to join the battle.
Last week Ansar al-Sharia said it would unleash a torrent of attacks unless the army pulled its forces away from Zinjibar within 10 days.
"This is a clear escalation in al Qaeda operations in southern Yemen, which comes barely a week after the new president took office," said Aden-based analyst Radwan Mohammed.
A Yemeni government official said the attacks were part of a campaign "to create confusion for the new president."
A U.S. ally in the fight against al Qaeda, Yemen has allowed Washington to launch drone strikes on militants who regrouped there after successive blows suffered in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Yemenis opposed to Saleh have pointed to the ease with which the group spread its footprint as evidence that the former president ceded it territory to amplify the al Qaeda threat and bolster his status as a key to U.S. "counter-terrorism" plans.
Wary of al Qaeda empowerment in Yemen, the United States and Saudi Arabia backed a Gulf-brokered plan under which Saleh gave way to Hadi, who is to oversee restructuring of the military. He appointed a new army commander in the south on Friday.
Sunday's was the second attack on as many days on military targets in the south, and one of at least five the group has claimed since Hadi was sworn in on February 25.
The deadliest assault came hours after Hadi's inauguration when a suicide bombing killed at least 26 people at a presidential palace in eastern Yemen.
On Saturday, two suicide bombers drove a car bomb into an army base in the southern province of al-Bayda, killing one soldier. The group has also claimed responsibility for an attack on a U.S. security team in Aden on Thursday.

AQAP Expands in Yemen

By Fatik Al-Rodaini
Sana'a, March 4, 2012
Recently, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has stepped up attacks on security bases in a new scene that faces Yemen after a year of daily protests against former President Saleh. (AQAP) took benefit of political turmoil in the country trying to extend its foothold in the south seizing swaths of town there.
 During the last two weeks AQAP conducted numerous attacks against Yemeni forces in Abyan, Hadhramout, Aden, and Al-Baydha provinces, killing and wounding tens of soldiers, with the highest concentration of attacks occurring in the southern governorates.   AQAP's campaign of violence reached the level of an active insurgency in February after the presidential oath of the Yemen new president Abdu Rabu Mansor Hadi and at the beginning of March.  Most of AQAP's targets in Yemen appear to be government targets, with a particular focus on the state’s intelligence and security apparatuses and figures.
On Sunday Al-Qaeda militants tried to overrun an army post in Kud in Yemen's restive Abyan province. The violence then spread to other military positions on the outskirts of the city. Sunday's assault in which at least 139 soldiers were killed, several wounded, and 55 others captured, was the most lethal attack since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office last month.
According to observers, the militants' attack appeared to be Al-Qaeda's response to a pledge by Yemen's newly inaugurated President Hadi to fight the Yemeni branch of the terror network.
Most of these attacks targeted the Republican Guard, and Central Security bases and forces, were carried out by militants known in Yemen as the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law). The group claimed its responsibility and said the attacks were revenge for crimes committed by the Republican Guard, and Central Security.
Zinjibar town has been the site of regular clashes between the army and Islamist fighters, despite government claims to have "liberated" the city from militants last September.
Last week Ansar al-Sharia said it would unleash a torrent of attacks unless the army pulled its forces from Zinjibar.
The U.S. ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda, Yemen has allowed Washington to launch drone strikes on militants who regrouped there after successive blows suffered in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Actually, the United States, wary of Al-Qaeda entrenchment in Yemen, so it backed a plan brokered by Yemen's wealthy Gulf Arab neighbours under which Saleh handed over power to his deputy last month and secured himself immunity from prosecution. But Saleh's opponents accuse him of exaggerating - even encouraging - the threat of militancy to scare Washington and Riyadh.
However, the fact on the ground is that AQAP expended its operationsin the last year taking benefit of the crisis in the country, despite the drone strikes carried out by the United States which targeted the elements of the organization many times.
Controlling Yemeni towns by the militants is asserting its desire to seize power in Yemen, has modeled itself along the lines of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, actually has seized a number of towns, and has reaffirmed its allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri. 
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) appeared for first time under the new banner ''Ansar Al-Sharea or the Supporters of the Islamic Law'' on March 29, 2011 after they announced Abyan province as an Islamic Emirate, just two months of protests to oust president Saleh.
In May 2011, the new group overran the towns of Zinjibar and Ja'ar. After then the two towns witnessed fierce battles between Yemen's army forces along with local tribal allies against AQAP.
Furthermore, the exact time of AQAP's presence in Yemen returned to January 2009 when Yemeni and Saudi branches emerged as one of the network's most active and ambitious wings after setbacks to Al-Qaeda groups in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Here is a timeline tracing al Qaeda activity in Yemen since 2000:
Oct 12, 2000 - Bombing of USS Cole in Aden harbor kills 17 sailors and blows hole in navy vessel's hull.
Oct 6, 2002 - Explosion damages French supertanker Limburg in Gulf of Aden in attack for which five al Qaeda-linked Yemenis are later convicted.
July 2, 2007 - Seven Spanish tourists are killed when car bomb hits their convoy in eastern province of Marib.
March 17, 2008 - Three mortar rounds miss U.S. embassy in Sanaa and hit girls school, killing school guard.
Aug 11, 2008 - Five al Qaeda suspects are killed and two arrested after police storm hideout in southern town. Yemen links them to attacks on Spanish tourists and U.S. embassy.
Jan 18, 2008 - Gunmen fire on tourist group in Hadramaut, killing two Belgian women and their two Yemeni drivers.
Sept 17, 2008 - Two suicide car bombers attack heavily fortified U.S. embassy complex in Sanaa, killing 16 people. Washington says attack bore "all the hallmarks" of al Qaeda.
Jan 2009 - Al Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi wings announce merger in new group called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) led by Nasser al-Wahayshi, former Yemeni aide to Osama bin Laden.
June 2009 - Bodies of three kidnapped foreign women -- two Germans and a South Korean -- are found in northern province of Saada. Six other foreigners remain missing. No group claims responsibility. AQAP is among suspects.
Aug 27, 2009 - Abdullah al-Asiri, an al Qaeda suicide bomber posing as repentant militant, is flown from Yemen to Saudi Arabia, where he tries to kill kingdom's anti-terrorism chief Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in first such attack on a Saudi royal.
Nov 3, 2009 - Al Qaeda claims killing of seven Yemeni security officials in ambush near Saudi border.
Dec 17, 2009 - Yemen says 30 al Qaeda militants are killed and 17 arrested in air raids and security sweeps in southern province of Abyan and Arhab district northeast of Sanaa.
Dec 24, 2009 - Yemen says 30 al Qaeda militants are killed in air strikes in eastern province of Shabwa. Security official says Wahayshi, his Saudi deputy Saeed al-Shehri and U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki are among dead. There is no confirmation.
Dec 28, 2009 - AQAP claims responsibility for failed bombing of Detroit-bound U.S. airliner three days earlier.

Yemen security claims foiled Al-Qaeda plot, arrests 6

Chiara Onassis | 4 March 2012
SANA’A: Official Yemen security sources told on Sunday that the Central Security Forces had foiled a terror plot by arresting 6 men allegedly linked to al-Qaeda and seizing a vehicle loaded with explosive.
The arrest came after an alert was set off by the country’s intelligence services of an imminent attack against national interest by the terror group, Ansar al Shariah, with reports coming through of the existence of 6 car-bombs.
There was an attack on Sunday that reportedly killed 6 soldiers in the southern part of the country, and has been linked to al-Qaeda.
Following a recent surge in violence and activities as al-Qaeda is believed to be trying to use instability as a way to further extend its hold over Yemen, the authorities have stepped up their efforts into cracking down on terrorist activities.
 “We have to be careful not to associate every attack with al-Qaeda since other factions are using the group to deflect their own guilt. However we need to remain cautious as al-Qaeda is trying to resume its anti-American campaign by targeting the government as it accuses it of collaboration with the enemy,” said an officer of the Central Security Forces.
Moreover, in light of this renewed terror threat the government decided to increase security in and around the US embassy in Sana’a, the capital as well as near other national landmarks and ministries.
 “With anti-Americanism being on the rise, we cannot be careful enough. In between al-Houthi’s threats to the U.S embassy and al-Qaeda’s promises that it would drive the invader out of Yemen, we are all on the alert. Things are tense but we believe we have the situation under control,” said a government official under anonymity since he wasn’t allowed to give details to the press.

Qaeda attacks Yemen army post, 9 dead

Qaeda attacks Yemen army post, 9 dead 
 March 04, 2012            
ADEN: Al Qaeda militants on Sunday tried to overrun an army post in Yemen's restive Abyan province, sparking a fierce firefight in which nine soldiers were killed and several captured, medics and officials said.
The firefight in Kud district of Abyan also left six soldiers wounded, a medic said.
"The hospital has received the bodies of six soldiers," said the medic from Bashib military hospital in the southern city of Aden, adding that the wounded soldiers had also been brought to the facility.
A military official, who confirmed that the casualties arose from clashes between the army and Al Qaeda militants in Kud, south of Abyan's provincial capital Zinjibar, confirmed the toll.
But "there are other casualties among the army who have not been taken out of the area," the official added. A local official in Kud said that Al Qaeda gunmen had taken away the bodies of three other soldiers they had killed.
Many soldiers were also taken captive by the extremists, the local official added.
The military official could not say whether the extremists had managed to take command of the army post but said troops in surrounding areas had rushed to join the battle.
Another army official said that the militants had seized heavy weapons, accusing some army leaders who had served under the rule of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh of "collaborating" with Al Qaeda.
Sunday's attack followed clashes during the night between the army and militants in Zinjibar in which four Al Qaeda fighters were killed, according to army officials.
Agence France-Presse