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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Al Qaeda leader insists it fights along with US-supported Sunni groups in Yemen

The leader of Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) claims that his group fights alongside Sunni fighters loyal to the government of Mansour Al-Hadi supported by the United States as well as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

AQAP leader Qasim al-Rimi told the group's media arm al-Malahem that his followers were de facto aligned with an array of forces in the complex conflict saying: “We fight alongside all Muslims in Yemen, together with different Islamic groups,” he said, including “the Muslim Brotherhood and also our brothers among the sons of (Sunni) tribes.” These alliances are all fighting against the Shia Houthi rebels who are supported by Iran. However, AQAP along with the Islamic State members in Yemen have also attacked the Hadi government now located in the southern port city of Aden. The Hadi government formerly in exile in Saudi Arabia has conquered much of the south of Yemen whereas the Houthis still control the north and west including the capital Sanaa.
The Hadi government appears to tolerate AQAP in areas where it is cooperating with local Sunni groups to fight against the Houthis. The US does give aid to to the Hadi government in terms of refueling planes and also providing intelligence and no doubt weapons:While al-Rimi did not elaborate on what he meant by “alongside”, many Sunni tribal militias, as well as the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood movement and conservative Salafis, are allied to the exiled Yemeni government fighting against Shia rebels known as Houthis who seized control of the capital Sanaa in 2014. The militias receive extensive funding and arms from the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition, which has supported President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi with air strikes and ground troops since March 2015.AQAP was formed in 2009 after the merger of smaller jihadist groups. It has formed alliances with many Sunni tribes around the country. AQAP has taken advantage of the civil war to extend its influence in many areas controlled by the Hadi government.
The U.S. has always regarded AQAP as an enemy and it has been a key target of drone strikes in the country for long before Trump took power. Al-Rimi has a bounty on his head of $5 million. Since Trump took power the U.S. involvement in Yemen as increased considerably. As discussed in a recent Digital Journal article there were more than 80 drone strikes during March and April. Just after taking office Trump approved a commando raid on an alleged AQAP base. Supposedly it was targeting Al-Rimi but failed to get him. While called a success by the Trump administration a Navy Seal was killed and numerous civilians killed as discussed in a recent Digital Journal article.
The Pentagon apparently would like to join the Saudis in capturing the last port on the Red Sea held by the Houthis Hodeidah. Not all in the U.S. Congress agree: A new open letter from a bipartisan group of Congressmen has called on Defense Secretary James Mattis to “reconsider” the push for involvement, warning that support for the war was never authorized by Congress, and that the U.S. shouldn’t participates in the “senseless humanitarian tragedy.”
Yemen’s civil war has killed more than 10,000 people to date and left more than half of its 27 million strong population reliant on food aid. The international community has condemned the Saudi Arabian bombing campaign, which is thought to be responsible for most civilian deaths. The UN has warned that only half of the $2.1 billion in funding needed to avert catastrophe has been pledged so far. Taking of the port of Hodeidah from the Houthis will make it even more difficult to send supplies to areas controlled by them where the need is greatest.


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