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Yemen: Poverty, strife and terrorism

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Yemen: Poverty, strife and terrorism


The mountains of southern Yemen, arid, dusty and ever more dangerous.

Recent pronouncements by US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown suggest that Yemen is becoming a new heartland for al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The country fits the bill. It is a poor Muslim nation with a weak government dealing with a Shi’ite rebellion in the north and a separatist movement in the south.

The region’s analysts claim Yemen is close to becoming a failed state, similar in nature to Somalia and therefore fertile ground for militants to operate and recruit.

The Christmas Day plot to bomb an American airliner over Detroit was hatched on the Arabian Peninsula, and Washington is starting to look very closely at the area as Yemeni forces struggle to keep control.

The strife in the north and south keeps the chaos levels up and allows the militant groups to work free from the gaze of the authorities.

And attacks against foreigners have been going on for a decade.

Kindred spirits are heading to Yemen from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia and the porous borders are proving difficult to plug.

The origin of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula began in Saudi Arabia.

In 2003 the group launched three simultaneous suicide strikes in Riyadh against a complex housing foreigners. 29 people died.

Three years earlier the American warship USS Cole was attacked in the Yemeni port of Aden and 17 US sailors were killed.

In 2006 the different groups began to merge after 20 of the main suspects for the Cole bombing escaped from detention.

In 2009 the Saudi and Yemeni members announced the existence of the group now known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

When US counter-terrorism chief, John Brennan was asked if Washington was considering military action in Yemen he replied; “Everything is possible.”

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