Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Qaeda Consolidates Hold on Southern Yemen

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and linked groups have consolidated their control over a portion of southern Yemen as that nation spirals into virtual civil war. It appears that the Yemeni government and military is nearly powerless to stop this.

The militants, operating under the name "Ansar al-Sunna," or supporters of Islamic Sharia law, captured the coastal city of Zinjibar in late May.

Zinjibar is on the Arabian Sea and normally has a population of about 150,000. But residents on Monday said large parts of the city are deserted and most stores are shuttered. There is a shortage of drinking water, forcing residents to bring water from wells on the city's outskirts.

They said the province's main hospital, al-Rajaa, on the road to the nearby city of Jaar, has been taken over by the militants and is being run by physicians from Sudan and Syria. They said the militants also have taken over local government offices.

"Why has not the army moved in to retake the city?" asked Zinjibar resident Ali al-Sumeiti, 22. "Now, from every 10 shells they fire on the city, only one hits the militants."

Another Zinjibar resident, 65-year-old retiree Abdullah al-Mohandes, said residents were running out of food and were heavily dependent on kitchen gardens to survive.

Al-Mohandes, however, had some praise for the militants.

"To be completely honest, we have not been badly treated by the mujahideen. On the contrary, they try to win our goodwill all the time," he said. "If you tell them you want to leave town, they escort you out and give you money to tide you over."

The jihadists are attempting to placate the civilians with programs, just as Hamas and Hezbollah have done. This could engender trust from the locals, which would be a very bad sign.

Cross-posted at WorldThreats.

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