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Dozens of Yemeni soldiers and militants are reported to have been killed in clashes between soldiers and militants in the south of the country, according to security officials. Gunmen also shot dead four policemen and wounded two others in an ambush in Zinjibar, in the southern Abyan province.

 

This came shortly after the government for the first time, publically acknowledged that the Al Qaeda threat was all over the country. This was followed by foreign oil companies giving their staff leave and remained shut for varying number of days after the announcement, across the country.

 

August 29, 2010

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

 

The south of the country has turned into a battlefield, with regular fighting reported in the Abyan and other southern provinces.

 

Abyan’s population in particular are thought to be largely sympathizers of Al Qaeda. During the civil war of the 1990’s, the Sanaa government armed and supported Al Qaeda in the southern Abyan province as they both fought the then socialist government of former South Yemen.

 

However, with increasing unrest in the south and an increasingly more aligned ideology between the southern seperatists and Al Qaeda, the common goal of the seperatists and Al Qaeda has made them join forces in their fight to separate from the Sanaa central government. The government therefore has been cornered in the south, as it quickly losses grip. The areas in which fighting is taking place is very mountainous making it even more difficult for the government forces to battle. With the situation in the country rapidly deteriorating, the Yemeni government appears unable to maintain law and order in the south and the unity of the country appears more shaky than ever since the unification. If the south does indeed separates, Al Qaeda will be the biggest winner, taking control of large of areas of strategic importance, including oil fields.

 

This will not only be disastrous to the country, but also be a serious threat to the rest of the Gulf. Highlighting the degree of concern, the central government has for the first time acknowledged that the Al Qaeda threat is not restricted to the Abyan area, but to the whole of the country, confirming that the government is rapidly losing control.