3: Al-Qaeda in Yemen
Yemenis have been in contact with al-Qaeda since the early 1990s. The collaboration gained momentum when the Aden Abayan army turned to the leadership of al-Qaida in 1998 and proposed attacking US naval vessels. The two organizations probably collaborated on these attacks. In the year 2000, they tried to sink the American frigate USS Cole . In 2002, the oil tanker Limburg was also attacked.
The United States responded to the attack by exposing the Yemeni government to strong pressure. In 2002, the then leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen was killed by a remote-controlled and unmanned American aircraft, a so-called drone. Yemen carried out an amnesty program, while the Americans and Yemenis tried to defeat al-Qaeda. These strategies were relatively successful. The leaders of the organization were either arrested or had to swear that they would give up the fight.
Many believed that al-Qaeda was finished in Yemen. But in 2006, 23 radical jihadists (militant Islamists) escaped from a prison in the capital Sanaa. Some of these, between the later leader Nasir Abdul-Karim al-Wuhayshi “Abu Basir” and tactical commander Qasim al-Raymi “Hurayrah al-San’ani ” became key figures in Yemeni al-Qaeda. They belonged to a new generation of Islamists. Al-Wuhayshi, for example, had little experience from Yemen, but was active in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to themakeupexplorer, Al-Qaeda was being rebuilt and became more and more active. Members from Yemen were also active in Somalia. Suicide bombers were useful, which was new to Yemen. More and more Saudis joined the organization, perhaps because Saudi al-Qaeda had major problems surviving. In January 2009, al-Qaeda in Yemen merged with al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. In the same year, the organization increased its international attacks. A suicide bomber attacked a Saudi prince, but failed. In December 2009, a Nigerian tried to blow himself up aboard an American airliner; he had been trained in Yemen.
Al-Qaeda in Yemen is under strong pressure. The organization is small, perhaps not more than 300 men. It has allies in several Yemeni tribes and can hide between them. It has also declared its support for the other rebels in Yemen – the so-called southern movement and the Houthi rebels in the north. While there may be some collaboration with the movement in the south, the Houthis are so ideologically different from al-Qaeda that a collaboration is unlikely.
4: The southern movement
The southern movement is not directly a rebel movement, but rather a popular protest movement against the regime. It has its origins among former officers living in the south, also officers who had fought for the north in the civil war in 1994. Sørrørsla was mainly based on civil disobedience and spontaneous attacks on government forces and only loosely organized. The last two years, the conflict has been the stairs up and Yemeni forces have often contour line against protesters.
There have also been many episodes in which government forces and police have been attacked. In the summer of 2009, a coordination group was organized, the so-called “Southern Congress for Peaceful Liberation”. Ali Salem al-Bidhi, the former president of southern Yemen, has become a symbolic leader of the movement. It has also become clearer that the goal is a separate state. In several places in southern Yemen, people are now using the former South Yemeni flag in demonstrations.
It seems incomprehensible that the strongest rebel group in Yemen comes from the same religious group (Shia Muslims) as the country’s president, Saleh. But the contradictions that created the uprising have some historical roots and go back to the fall of the Imamate in 1962. Imamans were direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, so-called Hashemites. President Saleh is not such a descendant. Many conservative members of the Shiite elite viewed “this shortcoming” with unkind eyes.
At the same time, they disliked the growing Saudi (Sunni Muslim) influence and increasing missionary activity from the Saudi-inspired Salafist direction of Islam. Al-Qaeda is also based on this trend, which claims to return to an original variant of Islam. At the same time, they consider many other variants of Islam, among them Shia Islam, as idolatry and sinful. This is one of the reasons why it is difficult to envisage an alliance between al-Qaeda and the Houthis.
One of the main reasons for the uprising was precisely as a counter-reaction to al-Qaeda-like ideas . But the Houthis also opposed US intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, and wanted a tougher Yemeni attitude toward Israel. The uprising started as a protest riot led by Hussein al-Houthi , a former member of parliament. After making verbal attacks on President Saleh, he was wanted by the police. The Houtistans were militarily organized by Hussein in 2004 after escaping into the mountains of northern Yemen.