Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1160, (15 - 21 August 2013)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1160, (15 - 21 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

US drones rage on in Yemen

Ten days of US drone strikes see 40 alleged Al-Qaeda terrorists killed, but unnerve and anger many Yemenis in the process, writes Nasser Arrabyee

Al-Ahram Weekly

Yemen is witnessing an unprecedented war from the sky. More than 40 Al-Qaeda suspects were killed over 10 days by 13 US drone attacks, mostly on moving targets in different places of the country.

With this in mind, and with some observers saying Al-Qaeda is getting weaker, the top leader of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Nasser Al-Wuhayshi, threatened after the drone attacks that he would raid maximum security prisons to free his “brothers” to fight with him.

The unprecedented drone attacks on Yemen came after allegations based on intelligence leaks from both US and Yemen that Al-Wuhayshi had been ordered by his boss, Ayman Al-Zawahri, to green light large terror operations on Western embassies and gas and oil facilities in Yemen.

In a statement attributed to Al-Wuhayshi and published on Al-Qaeda-linked websites on Monday, 12 August 2013, Yemen’s top Al-Qaeda leader said: “We ask God to make us a cause for unlocking your incarceration and relieving your agony.”

“Your brothers are pounding the walls of injustice and the thrones of oppression. These walls and thrones are coming down every day and victory is but one step. Victory is one hour of perseverance,” said Al-Wuhayshi who himself broke out of the maximum-security prison in Sanaa in February 2006, along with 22 inmates. Some 20 of the escapees were killed or re-arrested. Al-Wuhayshi was among those who escaped.

The Yemeni expert on Al-Qaeda affairs Abdel-Razak Al-Jamal told Al-Ahram Weekly Monday that the statement aimed to raise the morale of Al-Qaeda fighters after painful repeated drone attacks.

“Al-Wuhayshi wanted to say to his enemies, ‘We are still here steadfast,’ and at the same time raise morale of his remaining fighters and also give hope to prisoners,” said Al-Jamal, who has met many Al-Qaeda leaders.

The recent drone attacks, between 28 July and 10 August, came during and after a White House meeting between Yemen President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and US President Barack Obama that discussed Yemen’s ongoing Al-Qaeda threat.

The drone attacks caused a lot of public anger, especially that they continued flying over the capital, Sanaa, for two days, night and day, for the first time ever during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday ending the holy month of Ramadan.

Despite announcing their approval, President Hadi and his government faced an embarrassing situation — especially after US and Western embassies closed and evacuated their staff. Violation of Yemeni sovereignty by drones was the most controversial issue among Yemenis since their appearance in the skies.

“The US and Yemen governments were very skillful in creating justifications for these drone attacks this time, to reduce the reactions of the people,” said Al-Jamal.

Al-Jamal believes two lies were crucial: the Americans lied about alleged imminent threats leading to closures of embassies and evacuation US staff; and Yemen lied when it said Al-Qaeda was planning to destroy oil facilities. “The two sides were lying to justify the repeated attacks,” Al-Jamal said.

His assessment of those killed is that most of them were from middle level echelons of Al-Qaeda, and at least eight of the 40 killed were Saudi nationals.

The Saudi national and leading member Ibrahim Al-Rubaish may have been among them. If confirmed, this would be big loss for Al-Qaeda. Al-Rubaish is deputy head of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, replacing Said Al-Shehri who was killed by drones early this year — his death confirmed by Al-Qaeda spokesman Al-Rubaish only in the middle of July.

Expert Al-Jamal said Al-Rubaish might have been killed in the strike of Al-Nakaba of Sayed Shabwah on 30 July.

The last drone strike killed two Al-Qaeda suspects and seriously injured one after they left their car and escaped on foot in an area called Askaria between Yafee and Radfan in the southern province of Lahj on 10 August.

In the drone strike of 7 August, at Damasheka Abeida Mareb, east of the county, three brothers fighting with Al-Qaeda were killed by drones, identified by the Interior Ministry as Abdallah Afraj, Al-Hassan Afraj, Al-Hussein Afraj from Raghan, Dahm tribe, Mareb.

The Weekly’s local sources said the older brother, Abdallah, was known to be an Al-Qaeda member. He started by making money from the slain Anwar Al-Awlaki in return for easing his movements between Mareb, Al-Jawf and Shabwah. Al-Awlaki was killed by a US drone strike on 30 September 2011.

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