The Yemeni government announced that some Al Qaeda-linked militants may have fled to neighbouring states, including Oman, after being driven out of their strongholds in cities in southern Yemen.
“What we are sure of is that we’ve kicked out the terrorist elements from the towns and that they’re now being chased,” minister Abubakr al-Qirbi told Reuters. Many had fled to mountainous parts of southern Yemen, while others could have fled to neighbouring countries using land and sea routes.
The Omani foreign ministry declined to give details further to confirming that Oman was hunting infiltrators from Yemen and that no arrests had been made.
There were reports of Omani and Yemeni security forces chasing the militants.
June 29, 2012
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
The infiltration of the Al Qaeda into Oman carry both direct and indirect consequences. The potential direct consequences may be contained by the apprehension of the detainees. However, their decision to go into Oman carries the following implications:
- The presence of sleeper cells in the country who, in the least, are able to provide a safe haven in Oman;
- The border area in Oman is where previous Oman troubles have erupted. The Dhofar province has been the site of anti-Al Bu Said ruling family rule in the 60's and 70's. The fact that the infiltrators chose to flee there indicates that Dhofar can be the area of an Al Qaeda style insurgency. Whilst the rest of Oman is of the Ibadhi sect, Dhofar is largely Sunni.
- The porosity of the Oman-Yemeni border. With an estimated thousands of Al Qaeda militants in Yemen, fleeing to Oman appears to be a viable option;
The overall assessment resulting from the infiltration is a strong indication that Oman is prone to an Al Qaeda style insurgency. Whilst this is not imminent, the expected fall-out from the heir-less 75 year old Sultan is likely to lead to an opportunistic insurgency. The recent social unrest, whilst ideologically distinct from Al Qaeda ideology, serves only to strengthen the position of the extremist ideology in the Sultanate.