News / Middle East

Al-Qaida in Yemen Leader Threatens to Topple Government

Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh
Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh

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Al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula is threatening to overthrow Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh. The government and al-Qaida rebels have stepped up activity against each other across the country.

In an audio tape broadcast on the internet, the leader of the self-styled "al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula" group, Qasim al-Rimi, is threatening to topple Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh.

In the tape, al-Rimi tells President Saleh he will be driven from office, like former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, because he is supposedly an "agent of the U.S." who has "lost his legitimacy."  Al-Qaida, on the other hand, he alleges is becoming stronger.

He claims that President Saleh has lost a lot of his territory, much of his army, and his legitimacy.  He goes on to allege that al-Qaida is now fighting a war of attrition and strengthening itself to widen the battlefront against its enemies and to destroy them.

Yemen Post Editor-in-chief Hakim Almasmari notes the threat to topple the government is not new. "This is not something new," he said. "That is something that was announced over three years ago, but a new part is that al-Qaida announced that it will create an army - an Aden-Abyan Army - and the Aden-Abyan area is know to have a very good stronghold for al-Qaida."

Princeton University Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen says he thinks al-Raimi is exaggerating about the group's strength, but says it has grown since last year and has been multiplying its propaganda in recent weeks.

"One of the things that stood out to me is really the vast amount of statements, both printed statements, audio statements, videos, magazines that al-Qaida has put out over the past couple of weeks, including eulogies," he said.

"There has really been, I think, a significant uptick in the last couple of weeks in just the amount of material that the organization has put out on jihadi websites and this, in conjunction with some of the attacks they have been carrying out.  But, certainly, the group seems to have grown significantly from what it was about a year ago when people were suggesting that there were, say, 300 members of al-Qaida."

Johnsen says he believes recent al-Qaida attacks are driving many foreigners into leaving the country, which will have long-term negative effects.

"The cumulative effect of some of these attacks that we are seeing in Yemen is that more and more foreign civilian employees are either leaving Yemen or not coming to Yemen, and so the foreigners that are in Yemen more and more, there is an equation where it is heavily military, and I think that if you look at any country, that sort of an equation does not spell success," he said.

Editor Hakim Almasmari says al-Qaida has been carrying out small attacks in Yemen, but that many experts worry it is preparing to carry out a big one to show how powerful it is and prove that it can destroy the economy of the country.

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