Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Al Qaeda in Yemen: Getting stronger or weaker?

By Nasser Arrabyee/27/04/2010

The failed suicide attack on the British ambassador in Sana'a on Monday April 26th, 2010 has shown that Al Qaeda is still posing a threat despite the open war declared by the west-supported Yemeni government five months ago.

The attack also refuted the press reports that about 20 Al Qaeda operatives including the top leaders had moved to the volatile neighboring country of Somalia.

However, the unsophisticated and failed operation suggests that Al Qaeda militants were weakened and confused by the strikes and crack down over the last few months.

A 22-year old student alone failed to ram his explosive-wrapped body into the armoured car of UK ambassador, Tim Tolort who was unharmed. The car was lightly damaged. The brainwashed high school dropout killed only himself and lightly injured three of the passers-by in the main road nearby the UK embassy in Sana'a.

The security officials identified him as Othaman Ali Al Selwi saying he had training on weapons and explosives in Mareb where Al Qaeda militants are believed to be hiding.

Some relatives described, the suicide bomber, Al Selwi, as eccentric and lonely. He's originally from Taiz province, but living with the family in Aser neighbourhood in the Yemeni capital Sana'a.

The father is working as a building contractor in Sana'a. The father, Ali Noman Al Selwi said what his son did was shameful and terrorist. "He was studying in a technical institute but, he sometimes used to go absent from home for two months," said the father sadly.

The father confirmed that his son was arrested for two years by the Yemeni intelligence and that he and the security officials tried repeatedly to convince him to get married but he refused. The father of the bomber advised the youth not to be deceived by the terrorists.

The security forces arrested dozens of Al Qaeda suspects from Musaik and other suspicious places immediately after the bombing.

Some observers believe that the Monday failed suicide attack was a retaliation for the last strikes and crackdown on Al Qaeda including the last operation of April 18th, 2010 when two Al Qaeda operatives were killed in a raid implemented in the coastal province of Hodeida west of the country.

"It is a retaliation act, but it was very weak, and this means that Al Qaeda is getting weaker and weaker as the war on them continues," said Abdul Ghani Al Eryani, a political analyst specialist on Yemeni and American relations.

Al Eryani excluded that Al Qaeda wanted to target the ambassador of the British government in particular because of the British efforts to mobilize international support to help Yemen combat terrorism, especially the London conference on Yemen which was called for by the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown late last January.

"I do not think they have the ability to think this way or to select, they look for any target they can do, so this attack has nothing to do with the London conference," Al Eryani added.

But, a British expert and specialist on Yemen, said UK-led international efforts to help Yemen get rid of Al Qaeda was likely behind the suicide attack against the British ambassador.

Ginny Hill of the Chatham House specialist on Yemen," the British officials are working closely with the Yemeni government to tackle terrorism. British military trainers have been supporting the coastguard and the counter-terrorism unit for several years."

"Since 2006, the British have also taken a strong lead on development and anti-corruption measures," said Ms. Hill who is currently in a visit to Yemen.

Nabil Al Bukairi, a Yemeni researcher on terrorism and radical groups, disagrees with Ms. Hill and Mr. Al Eryani on why the British ambassador in particular and that Al Qaeda have become weak.

"Al Qaeda is Al Qaeda as it is. They did not fail in this attack. They succeeded in what they want, they wanted to spread terror, terrify and deplete the western security systems by making them in a state of alert all the time. This is one of Al Qaeda top goals, just to make the world in a chaos and terror, or the so-called management savagery," Said Al Bukairi.

"US and UK is always the first target of Al Qaeda, and the other westerners are secondary."

The US raised its assistance to Yemen to 150 US million dollars in 2010 from about 70 million in 2009.

The Monday suicide attack also came less than one month after the US put the Yemeni- American extremist cleric, Anwar Al Awlaki, in the CIA "kill or capture" list.

Al Awlaki, hiding in the mountainous areas of Shabwah where his clan boasts of protecting him or the 'hero sheikh', is accused of being behind many terrorist acts such as Fort Hood shooting, and the Christmas day failed attack, and of planning to do more and more. Al Awlaki, who was born raised and studied in US, recently called for Jihad against US.

In a video clip posted on April 16, 2010, in Al Qaeda monthly magazine Sada Al Malahem (echo of battles), denied the accusations, boasted of calling for Jihad against US, and accused the Yemeni government of betrayal and treason.

"Of course, I categorically rejected this, because I'm not accused of anything to begin with. What am I accused of? of calling for the truth? of calling for Jihad for the sake of Allah? of calling to defend the causes of the Islamic nation? It is the Yemeni government that stands accused of betrayal and treason," he said.

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