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 Updated: April 18, 2015

Saudi assault on the Yemen empowering Al Qaeda

By: News Desk

SANAA, Yemen: Saudi assaults on the Yemen have indirectly helped empower Al Qaeda in ways the group had not enjoyed before, told in recent NY times report.

It is reported in New York Times by SAEED AL-BATATI and KAREEM FAHIM that Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen took control of a major airport and an oil export terminal in the southern part of the country on Thursday, expanding the resurgent militant group’s reach just two weeks after it seized the nearby city of Al Mukalla and emptied its bank and prison.

Local officials said that fighters belonging to the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as AQAP, took control of the Riyan Airport and a nearby military base outside Al Mukalla, the fifth-largest city in Yemen. The group also seized the Dhabah oil terminal on the Arabian Sea coast, which the group had tried to capture before, according to Yemeni officials.

Al Qaeda is capitalizing on the expanding multisided war in Yemen and the collapse of its government to carve out territory for itself. When its fighters stormed Al Mukalla, the capital of Hadhramaut Province, they seized government buildings, looted the central bank office and freed hundreds of inmates from the city penitentiary, including a senior leader of the group.

Al Qaeda’s adversaries in Yemen are largely in disarray or distracted by other fighting. Military units have melted away or put up little resistance as Al Qaeda has advanced. The Houthis, a militia movement from northern Yemen that is considered Al Qaeda’s most determined foe, have been preoccupied with battles against rival militias across the country, and their fighters have been battered by aerial assaults from the Saudi-led Arab coalition, which is trying to restore the exiled government to power.

Saudi Arabia has focused on crippling the Houthis, leaving Al Qaeda all but unopposed around Al Mukalla, though the group was dealt a setback this week when a top figure and several other members were killed in an American drone strike.

Still, the Saudi assaults on the Houthis have indirectly helped empower Al Qaeda in ways the group had not enjoyed before. Its fighters are now developing relations with Yemeni tribal leaders who share antipathy for the Houthis and their allies, said Jamal Benomar, the United Nations diplomat who had unsuccessfully sought to achieve a political reconciliation in Yemen.

“For the first time, Al Qaeda is building a strategic alliance with the tribes,” Mr. Benomar, who has requested a reassignment, said in an interview at The New York Times on Wednesday. “It is a strengthened and dangerous Al Qaeda. This is what worries everybody.”

In Washington, Pentagon officials acknowledged that the American-backed Saudi airstrikes have created more space for Al Qaeda to gain territory.


 

 
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