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Fierce clashes broke out between security forces and gunmen holed up inside a district of Yemen's southern port city of Aden after police arrested some 30 people, security officials said.

 

As-Saada district has been cordoned off by security forces as the authorities seek to search buildings where suspects believed to have been involved in an attack on an intelligence headquarters are thought to be hiding.

 

Seven military personnel, three women and a child were killed in the attack on the intelligence building in an assault security forces said was carried out by Al-Qaeda.

 

The security official said there were intermittent clashes in As-Saada which is on the road linking Aden to neighboring Abyan province, from where the alleged attackers were believed to have come.

 

A police official told the press that the men being hunted "are suspected of belonging to Al-Qaeda."

 

Security forces in Aden "have been placed on high alert in case there are criminal acts and sabotage," a statement on the interior ministry website said. It added security had been heightened along the coast "to prevent any infiltration by terrorist elements or arms trafficking."

 

The attack on the intelligence building in Aden was apparently intended to free prisoners, but the authorities said none were in the building at the time.

 

There were no casualties among the attackers, the witnesses said.

 

On Sunday, the defence ministry website reported the alleged mastermind behind the attack had been captured, and named him as Goudol Mohammed Ali Naji.

 

June 25, 2010

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

 

The nature of the attack, the circumstances in which it was conducted and subsequent reaction by the government all point to a confusion and chaos in the south.

 

Political Capital has warned in the past that if the security situation in the south deteriorates to armed clashes, it is almost certain that Al Qaeda and its sympathizers will join ranks with the southern separatists to fight their common enemy, the Yemeni government.

 

The fear expressed by Political Capital on many occasions in the past two years is now manifesting itself as a reality that only makes it even more difficult for the government to bring back law and order in the south. Now that two of the Yemeni government’s three enemies are united in active fighting (the third being the Saada rebels in the north), it appears to be almost impossible for the government to restore the unity between north and south Yemen, and unless a political solution is found, Yemen appear to be heading towards division. The danger now is that a divided Yemen will mean a strongly pro-Al Qaeda state in the south. Unless the situation is addressed, possibly by a fundamental change in government structures, the move towards separation appears unstoppable. The situation makes it the call of Sheikh Al Ahmar for a president from the south to take charge the only hope for salvaging the failing state of Yemen from actually disintegrating and becoming a new Afghanistan, at the doorstep of the GCC.