US drone strikes complicate struggle in Yemen

On Monday night drone strikes targeting Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula(AQAP) positions near the central town of Rada killed 20 suspected militants, according to both tribal sources and witnesses.

While the US is the only country operating drones in Yemen, the US rarely confirms strikes. The Yemeni president Hadi supports the strikes in his battle against AQAP but they are unpopular among the general population. The area around Rada is being defended by AQAP along with Sunni tribal allies against an offensive by Shiite Houthi rebels. The rebels in turn appear to have the support of elements in the armed forces.
The Houthis' main base is in the north of Yemen, near the Saudi border, but they have expanded territory under their control and taken the Red Sea Port of Hudeida last month and also occupied the capital Sanaa in September. The Saudis are concerned about these developments on their border and oppose the Houthi offensive. Now the US has intervened directly in a manner that can only help the Houthis and also alienate Sunni tribes allied with AQAP in the fight against the Shiites.
 Local sources said that armed fighters had killed 22 rebels in attacks in the area on Monday. The attacks came after a four-day deadline expired for the rebels to withdraw. The army deployed hundreds of militia to the southern port of Aden to keep it from coming under control of either the rebels or Al Qaeda. However, there is also a southern movement that could be a threat as well since they are demanding independence from the north. Militia commander Adbullatif Al Sayed said: “We came to Aden to protect security and military institutions as well as vital installations, in coordination with the leadership of the fourth military region. We will confront any armed group attempting to undermine security and stability in Aden, whether the Houthis or Al Qaeda."
 The Houthi rebels reached a deal not to enter the mostly Sunni city of Taez with a population of half a million to avoid fighting within the city. Just a few days ago competing factions including the Houthis and the Sunni Islamist Al-Islah party signed an agreement to set up a technocratic government. President Hadi and the prime minister Khaled Bahah were given the task of forming the new government. Abdel Jubari of the liberal Justice and Construction Party said: “It is a compromise agreed to overcome the question of sharing out ministerial portfolios between the various groups” The agreement on a new government does not seem to have stopped clashes between the Houthis and others
Earlier in Rada a suicide bomber had killed 20 Houthi fighters and three days of fighting had killed as many as 250. The intervention of the US in bombing AQAP in the area will turn the majority Sunni population in Yemen against the US and create even more problems for embattled president Hadi who is a firm ally of the US.


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