By Nasser Arrabyee/29/06/201
The Yemeni government arrested tens of Al Qaeda suspects in the southern coastal city of Aden after a group of gunmen, believed to be Al Qaeda operatives, implemented a brazen attack on the headquarters of the intelligence office killing 11 people before majority of the staff came early morning on June 19th, 2010.
The gunmen escaped unharmed after they killed everyone they saw in that supposedly maximum-security facility.
Does that unexpected operation mean that Al Qaeda is increasing in the south of Yemen where disgruntled groups have been demanding separation since 2007? And is there any relationship between these groups, locally known as Al Herak, and Al Qaeda?
Although Al Qaeda did not claim responsibility for the attack, the government arrested the mastermind of that operation only one day later and identified him as Ghawdal Mohammed Saleh Naji.
Ghawdal appeared in a video footage shown by some satellite channels beside Al Qaeda operative Mohammed Ahmed Saleh Omair who threatened in that video to retaliate for the government’s air strike that targeted an Al Qaeda training camp in Al Majalah, Abyan on December 17, 2009. Omair was killed one week later in another air strike which targeted a meeting of Al Qaeda leaders in Rafadh area in Shabwa.
For Al Herak, it is not yet at the stage of implementing such sophisticated operations even though it has adopted the violence as a way of achieving its goals. It’s not united as Al Qaeda. It’s divided into eight groups at least including two groups outside Yemen.
The most important and obvious common thing between these two entities who wish to control over the south is their hostility to the Sana’a regime .
“Al Qaeda and Al Herak are both opponents of the government , but each one of them has its own background, Al Qaeda is religious and extremist and is using violence to achieve its goals. And although Al Herak is using violence as well but not for religious reasons,” said Saeed Obaid Al Jemhi, chairman of Al Jemhi Centre for Researches and Studies, a recently established think tank concerned with the Islamic groups and Al Qaeda affairs.Al Qaeda is exploiting Al Herak but it is not allying with it. Al Qaeda wants to go deeper and deeper inside Al Herak to make it in its interests. If they failed to secede, Al Qaeda will remain as it is , and if they succeed, Al Qaeda will do its best to make Al Herak far away from the socialism and Marxism they were in the past,” Obaid, who is originally from Aden said.
Al Herak groups say those who were arrested after the attack on the intelligence headquarters were only their activists and that they had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, and that the government used Al Qaeda only as a justification to repress them.
The most influential group in Al Herak is led by the former jihadist in Afghanistan and a close friend of Osma Bin Laden, Tarek Al Fadhli who joined Al Herak early 2009 in his province Abyan.
Al Fadhli raised the American and British flags on his house in the capital of Abyan, Zenjubar, to tell the world he is not Al Qaeda member anymore.
The security authorities in Aden released on Tuesday June 29th, 2010, 8 out of more than 30 who were arrested in Aden after the attack on the intelligence headquarters.
On Friday June 25th, 2010, the security forces dispersed angry demonstrations after one of those arrested died in the custody. The security authorities said Ahmed Derwish died in the custody because of asthma while demonstrators say he died because of torture.
Local sources in Aden said that the security forces were looking for the top leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen Nasser Al Wahaishi . Al Sa’ada neighborhood in Khor Maksar in Aden was surrounded by security forces from all directions for three days after clashes between gun men barricading in some houses and the security men. Al Wahaishi was believed to be hiding in this neighborhood, which has a lot of sympathizers of Al Qaeda.
Tribal leaders and local authority officials have played an important role to contain the situation between the gunmen and the security forces.