Thursday, April 12, 2012
Yemen: Government forces attack militants with U.S. help
Yemeni government forces are trying to wrest parts of southern Yemen from Al Qaeda and other Islamic militants who have occupied considerable swaths of territory while the country was in turmoil.
President Hadi the former protege and vice-president under Saleh has fired some Saleh loyalist from positions of power but a son of Saleh continues to run the elite Republican Guards.
Two who were fired refused to give up their positions and one general closed down the airport in the capital by surrounding it with loyal troops. The airport is open again now. See this article.
A mainly covert U.S. role in Yemen relies to a considerable extent on drones which are flown from a base in nearby Djibouti on the horn of Africa. There is also a secret base thought to be in Saudi Arabia.However, there are also special forces on the ground.
Yemeni officials also reported that the capital of Abyan province, Zinjibar was hit by missile fire from the Gulf of Aden. The Yemeni government does not have the capability to mount such an attack so no doubt it was mounted from U.S. warships. Zinjibar is occupied by the militant group Ansar al Sharia.
Hadi has so far thrown his lot in with the U.S. in making a priority attacks upon Al Qaeda and other militant groups such as Ansar al Sharia. Saleh alternated attacks with deals with the militants.
Since last May there have been 26 reported U.S,. drone strikes in Yemen. So far this year there have been a dozen already. However militants are stepping up attacks too often taking the battle to the military by attacking bases. The military has already suffered 250 killed this year and lost several bases to militants.
AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) and Ansar al Sharia have bet wen them captured a number of towns in southern provinces. They have often repelled attempts by government forces to retake the towns.
Ansar al-Sharia has been especially active wiping out some 150 government troops in an attack west of Zinjibar. Often weapons caches have been captured as well. In the captured towns the group imposes its own strict Sharia law.
The south of Yemen was long a separate state. There is a strong separatist movement as well as Islamic radicals active in the south. Many inhabitants feel abandoned by the central government and believe they get little or nothing from the union. For more see this article.