Yemen appears to be heading into an all-out confrontation with Al Qaeda. The country’s army carried out an air strike on the village of Al-Maajala killing 23 children and 17 women, a local official and tribal sources said. The government said it targeted a suspected Al-Qaeda training camp, killing around 30 militants, some of them foreigners.

In response to the attack, thousands of Yemenis demonstrated against the government, in what appears to be a sympathetic public mood towards Al Qaeda.

Yemen has asked for urgent assistance from the US to help Al Qaeda fighters in the country.

December 22-29, 2009

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

The government of Yemen has three major fronts:

  1. Saada front with the Shiites in the north;
  2. Southern separatists;
  3. Al Qaeda.

The resources of the central government have been stretched and are now close to breaking point, as parts of the country slip from the government's grip.

During the past several years, the central government was fighting on at least one of those fronts. However, for the first time, it is finding itself fighting on all three simultaneously.

The opening up of a front against Al Qaeda could not have come at a worst time. This is mainly for two reasons:

  1. The government is engaged fighting a tough war in Saada and is gradually losing its grip in the south; and, more importantly;
  2. There is increasing local sympathy for Al Qaeda in all the country. This is because of increasing frustration with what is perceived as a very corrupt regime, at times of massive unemployment (of over 40 percent). In addition, the latest strike against alleged Al Qaeda fighters has rallied the local population around Al Qaeda-linked ideologies.

The country is therefore being gradually turned into a safe haven for Al Qaeda, but more dangerously, embraced by the local population. The Yemeni government has asked for urgent assistance to combat Al Qaeda. However, this may prove to be too late as Al Qaeda has quickly found itself a willing host population.