Training for battle on the new front line of America’s war on Al-Qaeda This is Yemen’s counter terrorism unit.On
Christmas Day, Al Qaeda in Yemen almost carried out the worst terrorist attack on US soil
since 9/11.Suddenly all eyes have turned to this little known Arab country — asking the
question who is fighting Al Qaeda in Yemen? Al Qaeda, whether its central leadership or
fighters is from Yemen.Yemen was and still is a place that attracts, trains and exports
fighters, either young Yemenis or foreigners. Across the rugged desert east of Sanaa lies
the ancient town of Marib.Home to a temple to the Queen of Sheba, Marib was once the
jewel in the crown of Yemen’s tourism industry.Today gunmen patrol. Marib is now an operational
stronghold for Al Qaeda. Formed in January 2009 with several hundred
fighters, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular is a merger between the group’s Saudi and
Yemeni networks. Sheikh Abdullah al-Shareef is a tribal leader
from Marib. Many people here have no job. They meet leaders
of Al Qaeda who are foreigners. The young people become convinced to join them, believing
they are following the religious path. This unemployment couples with rapidly diminishing
oil and water resources. Yemen’s economy is fast heading for collapse.In my view the root
cause of all the problems whether is poverty. No one gets recruited free of charge.They
all have resources. But the religious appeal adds to the shortage of capital.
The international focus on Yemen comes as the authority of President Ali Abdullah Saleh
is being directly challenged.A long and bitter war against Huthi rebels in the northern governorate
of Saada has uprooted tens of thousands of families.In the south, a secessionist movement
for the independence of south Yemen regularly demonstrates against the president.
In the space that is opening up as Yemen pulls itself apart, Al Qaeda have succeeded in established
a strong foothold.Especially among local tribes.On an Al Qaeda video Nasser Wahayshi, the leader
of Al Qaeda in Yemen, warns Muslims of a coming war between Islam and the West.Be happy even
if bad things are happening. Your children are the next generation and they have your
blood. Be prepared to run from your homes because they will come from directions you
do not expect. One such source of unexpected attacks are
Yemen’s own counter terrorism forces, here training for a raid on a militant safehouse.
We in Yemen this is the first time we face a terrorist ready to commit suicide and that
was a very big threat to our security. After the occupation of Iraq many terrorists went
to Iraq. There was more violent than before. The CTU started with 50 men and now has more
than 300.They are well trained by the Americans and the British
Since December the unit has been involved in a series of attacks on Al Qaeda strong holds.In
these pictures of an actual raid, soldiers surround a suspected Al Qaeda safe house,
before storming it. The US has long demanded Yemen crack down on Al Qaeda and will be pushing
for more such action. However, President Obama is seriously concerned
with Yemen’s ability to keep captured fighters under lock and key.In February 2006, Al Qaeda’s
leader in Yemen escaped from the country’s maximum security prison. Alongside him was
Qassem al-Raimi, now a top military commander in the group.Judge Hamoud Hitar leads Yemen’s
programme to persuade captured fighters to renounce violence.
We proved to the world that the tongue and pen are more powerful than weapons. If force
was enough to fight terrorism, Iraq and Afghanistan would be safer than any place.
However, the scheme has lost the support of the US after graduates of Hitar’s programme
were later captured fighting in Iraq, some clearly not convinced by his arguments. Nasser Bahri is a former Al Qaeda member who
fought alongside Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. He later went through judge Hitar’s programme but says
it was less than comprehensive. There were only three sessions. The first
was for about an hour and a half, the second was exactly 45 minutes and the third time
I signed an agreement renouncing violence against the state. There was dialogue but
not a programme of re-education. If Yemen’s government deals with jihadis based
on an American agenda, then the jihadis have the right to defend themselves. Because then
they will know that this government works for the US government. In their attacks on Al Qaeda, the Yemeni authorities also risk triggering a war against the local tribes. We don’t want to fight with all the tribes
in Yemen. It’s better to get the head members of Al Qaeda. It is not in our favour to fight with the Tribes, as they have connections with other tribes and then we’ll have a big war.
As far as we know Al Qaeda do not open the door to dialogue. They only seek bloodshed, and that’s their philosophy and their way of doing things If force comes to force of course the government will have to. Obama wants to say that Yemen will change to be another Afghanistan, and he wants to
stop that happening. Abdulelah Shaea monitors the web for news
and statements by Al Qaeda in Yemen.Having met the group last year, Shaea believes US
support will do little to stop Al Qaeda exploiting the weakness of the state.
The Yemeni system will never be able to stop it because of the internal problems it has.
So – at the end of this, and I think it is in the short term – Al Qaeda will win in its
battle against the system. Deploying international troops to Yemen risks
further inflaming hostility among local tribes.So for now it is the men and women of Yemen’s
counter-terrorism forces who are at the sharp end of this new frontline in America’s war
on Al Qaeda. In the dry mountains and plains of Yemen’s
rugged tribal heartlands, soldiers hunt for Al Qaeda fighters. Both sides waiting for
their next order to strike. Al Qaeda is not just a threat to Yemen, they are a threat to the whole region. They are bloody killers. We are not fighting Al Qaeda just to fight Al Qaeda. We are fighting for