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A powerful tribe in Yemen threatened violence against anyone trying to harm a radical US-born Muslim cleric whom Washington has reportedly placed on its hit list.

 

The heavily armed Al-Awaliq tribe, active in the Abyan and Shabwa regions that are key Al Qaeda strongholds in Yemen, warned against any attempt against Anwar al-Awlaqi, a Yemen-based US citizen with suspected Al Qaeda ties.

 

In an official statement published after a meeting of tribal leaders, the tribe said it would “not remain with arms crossed if a hair of Anwar al-Awlaqi is touched, or if anyone plots or spies against him.” “Whoever risks denouncing our son (Awlaqi) will be the target of Al-Awaliq weapons,” the statement said, and warned “anyone against co-operating with the Americans” in the capture or killing of the cleric.

 

A US official said at the beginning of April 2010 that President Barack Obama’s administration had authorized the targeted killing of the cleric, even though he is an American citizen. “The US government would be remiss if it didn’t go after terrorist threats like Awlaqi,” the counter-terrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

 

It was not immediately clear if the tribe was actually harboring Awlaqi in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden where tribal ties and laws largely hold sway.

 

April 10, 2010

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

 

The recent news carries a double risk to the stability of Yemen and to the safety of Western interests in general, in the increasingly failing state.

 

The announcement by the powerful Awlaqi tribe is very significant. Although the tribe has had its skirmishes with the Yemeni government, the announcement of the US government could have, before the announcement of the Awlaqis be interpreted in two ways. One was that it would have been to be an excuse by the Yemeni government to pursue Anwar Al Awlaqi. The other a genuine desire by the US authorities to kill Awlaqi.

 

However, the announcement by the Awlaqi tribe pre-empts the position of the Yemeni government and puts it in a very difficult position. If Awlaqi is harmed, the Yemeni government will find itself at war with a large, important and strong tribe. It might be the case that the Yemeni government might find it safer for its survival to protect Awlaqi rather than harm him. The Yemeni government has been cornerned by the American government, and further cornered by its local tribes, and finds itself in one of the most difficult positions it has faced for decades.