Tightening the noose
The battle against Al-Qaeda continues apace in Yemen, despite the power vacuum, marvels Nasser Arrabyee
The two-month war in south Yemen between Al-Qaeda and government troops intensified over the last few days and entered what can be called a bone-breaking stage.
Al-Qaeda lost senior leaders along with tens of fighters after local tribesmen in Abyan sided with the government troops for the first time. Local people say many airstrikes were implemented by US drones over the last few weeks.
The two governments of Yemen and the US acknowledge there is cooperation and coordination between them to defeat Al-Qaeda which tries to exploit the current unrest in Yemen.
Most of Zinjubar, the capital of Abyan, is now under the control of the government troops and the tribesmen, who closed entrances of the city four days ago, according to local sources.
However, Al-Qaeda is still resisting inside and outside Zinjubar.
At least five soldiers were killed and 25 others injured when a booby-trapped car exploded nearby a reinforcement convoy while on its way to the troops in Zinjubar, according to the Ministry of Defence said Monday.
The reinforcement troops were nearby the air defense camp in Al-Mansora area of Aden on their way to Zinjubar to help the troops of the 25th Mica Brigade who have been fighting for about two months at the eastern outskirts of the city of Zinjubar.
The suicide bomber, an Al-Qaeda operative, who was killed in the blast, was driving a pick- up truck.
The bomber, whose body's parts were scattered, was a Saudi national named Turky Saad Mohamed Kulais Al-Shahrani, alias Al-Betar.
Previously, the Yemeni Ministry of Interior had offered a reward of $50,000 for any information leading to the arrest of him and his friend the Saudi Ahmed Abdel-Aziz Jaser Al-Jassar.
The suicide attack will not deter the armed forces from continuing to cleanse Abyan province from terrorists, the military commanders say.
Brigadier General Mohamed Al-Sawmali, commander of the 25th Mica Brigade, said Monday he and his troops are still determined to cleanse the province of Abyan of terrorists. "We are patient and steadfast, and we'll remain so until we finish off the rest of the terrorists, the cowards who have no nation and no religion," said the commander Al-Sawmali, who is widely described as a hero. Only last week he broke a two-month siege imposed on his camp at the eastern outskirts of Zinjubar. Now his troops are in direct confrontation with Al-Qaeda fighters inside the city.
Tens of Al-Qaeda operatives including middle level leaders were killed and injured in Zinjubar over the last two weeks.
Local tribesmen played an essential role in the last decisive battles. Tribesmen got angry after about 90,000 people were displaced from their houses in Zinjubar because of the fighting.
"It is the first time that Al-Qaeda is in direct confrontation with the tribesmen ,"said Said Obaid, chairman of Al-Jemhi Research Centre, a recently-established think-tank concerned with Al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda fighters in Zinjubar, who call themselves Ansar Sharia, supporters of Sharia (Islamic law), come from all over the country, mainly from Shabwah, Mareb, Al-Jawf and Hudhrmout.
Non-Yemenis are also participating in the battles. For instance, the Saudi Walid Asiri, and the Egyptians Salim Heba and Abu Ayman El-Masri, were found among the dead bodies over the last few weeks.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) is also fighting in the city, which is close to the harbour of Aden which Al-Qaeda dreams to control.
"Insar Sharia is part of AQAP in terms of ideology but not all of them are necessarily a part of the organisational system of AQAP," said the expert Obaid.
Aidh Al-Shabwani, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the eastern province of Mareb, was buried in his home village in Abaida on Wednesday after he was killed in Zinjubar.
The death and burial of Al-Shabwani was confirmed by many relatives and friends who attended the funeral and burial.
Musab Mabkhout Al-Sharif was also buried in Mareb earlier this month after he was killed in Zinjubar where he was fighting Al-Qaeda operatives.
Mabkhout Al-Sharif, father of Musab, is the head of the opposition Islamist party, Islah, in Mareb.
Salim Heba and Abu Ayman El-Masri, the Egyptian Al-Qaeda operative, was killed in Zinjubar earlier this month. Al-Masri lived with his wife on a farm under the protection of the prominent Bakil tribal leader in Al-Jawf province Amin Al-Okaimi.
The tribal leader Al-Okaimi is a member of parliament from the opposition Islamist party Islah.