Samstag, 13. August 2011

On the complex situation in Zanjubar

This is an interesting article by the Jamestown Foundation on the situation in Zanjubar (or Zinjibar).

The battle for Zinjibar: The tribes of Yemen's Abyan governorate join the fight against Islamist militancy
by Andrew McGregor

As if Yemen did not already face enough political, social and economic challenges in the midst of a multi-sided civil war, there are significant and not unreasonable fears in the Yemeni opposition that President Ali Abdullah Saleh has manufactured a new conflict between the state and al-Qaeda in Abyan governorate designed to ensure Western support for his continued rule. Many Yemeni political and military leaders insist the bitter and ongoing battle for the coastal city of Zinjibar (capital of Abyan governorate) is merely the culmination of a decade long policy of manipulating the al-Qaeda threat. 

Yemen’s military is badly divided at the moment; some units and commanders have crossed over to the opposition, some units are engaged with Huthist rebels in northern Yemen, some (such as the Republican Guard) are devoted to crushing protestors, and still others, such as the leadership of the embattled 25th Brigade in Zinjibar, say they are neither pro- nor anti-regime, but will fight to the death to prevent an al-Qaeda takeover.  

Saleh’s regime has attempted to capitalize on the seizure of Zinjibar as a warning of what can result from the instability sweeping Yemen as a result of anti-regime protests, describing the militants as “members of al-Qaeda [who] benefit from any instability to establish their Islamic state (Yemen Times, June 2).

The Islamist Takeover of Zinjibar: Betrayal at the Top? 

According to official reports, Zinjibar was taken by about 300 Islamist militants (which the government identified as al-Qaeda) in late May after two days of fighting with government forces (AFP, May 29). Residents of Zinjibar reached by Western media provided a different version of events, describing a city abandoned to militants who went on a looting spree (BBC, May 29). Only the 25th Brigade refused to evacuate the city and was soon surrounded by militant forces. It seems that the original 300 militants received substantial reinforcements before tribal forces recently began cutting the roads into Zinjibar. 

Not long after the occupation, reports began to appear in the jihadist forums of the proclamation of an “Islamic Emirate of Abyan,” as declared by AQAP (Ansar1.info, March 28; al-Bawaba, March 31). The forces in Zinjibar, however, are gathered under the banner of the newly formed Ansar al-Shari’a (al-Watan [Sana’a], August 4). The exact identity of the Islamist forces in Zinjibar remains uncertain. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has not issued any statements regarding the fighting there, though government statements routinely refer to the forces occupying the city as “al-Qaeda.”

Yemen’s foreign minister, Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi, strongly denied suggestions that the government was using al-Qaeda in Zinjibar to further its own interests and collect Western funding intended for anti-terrorism activities: “It cannot be said that the state that spares no effort in fighting [al-Qaeda], is the one that planted it there” (al-Sharq al-Awsat, July 29). 

Read the rest of the article here.

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