News / Middle East

    Bin Laden's Legacy Strong in Yemen

    American-born Anwar al-Awlaki is one of the most influential terror leaders in Yemen (file photo)
    American-born Anwar al-Awlaki is one of the most influential terror leaders in Yemen (file photo)
    Elizabeth Arrott

    Few places have seen Osama bin Laden's ideology take root as strongly as Yemen, the impoverished Arab nation that is the late al-Qaida leader's ancestral home.

    Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is one of the most active groups inspired by bin Laden. In recent years, it has been implicated in plots to bring down a U.S. airliner, send bombs via cargo planes, attack embassies and kill foreign nationals.  

    There are direct links to the main al-Qaida group, which claimed responsibility for the bombing of the American ship, USS Cole, in Yemen in 2000.  

    And according to Yemeni writer and political analyst Nasser Arrabyee, the local franchise may have even overtaken its predecessor.    

    "They have the same thought, the same goals, the same methods.  And maybe Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is even more dangerous because of the Yemeni-American leader now - Anwar al Awlaki."  

    No shortage of fresh blood

    The American-born Awlaki is seen as the face of a new generation of terrorists. The articulate English-speaker, considered an operational mastermind by the United States, is an Internet sensation, with his blog, YouTube videos and Facebook page attracting a loyal following worldwide.   

    That ease with social media was seen among other Yemeni extremists, who created Facebook pages honoring bin Laden just hours after his death was announced. For a while bin Laden had little to do with the local group, but he remains a powerful symbol.

    Some in Yemen consider bin Laden a liberator, who lived and died a hero.  The that the al-Qaida leader is also thought as someone who stood against the unjust.  

    Lack of instability compounds problem

    Right now, the unjust for al-Qaida supporters is the Yemeni government. And this is where, like many things in Yemen, the situation gets complicated.  

    The anti-government demonstrations that have roiled the country for months are for the most part a call for democracy and greater freedom. But they also offer al-Qaida an opening in a fragile state torn by tribal allegiances, a rebellion in the north and a secessionist movement in the south. Political analyst Arrabiyee says extremists are only waiting for the right moment.

    "Al-Qaida can only make a big victory when Yemen collapses into chaos and this is what al Qaida is waiting [for] now. Al-Qaida has reduced a lot of its operations in order not to help President Saleh politically. So they are waiting for chaos, for a collapse in Yemen to grow more and more and to recruit more and more."

    Western countries face dilemma

    That puts Western countries, especially the United States, in a bind, as they try to balance popular demands against the Yemeni government's stated commitment to anti-terrorism.  

    Washington has made President Ali Abdullah Saleh a partner in fighting al-Qaida, and supports his government with military and financial aid. Saleh's detractors claim he overstates the terror threat - and his role in fighting it - to keep the backing of his foreign allies. Najeeb Ghanem is a member of the opposition in Yemen's parliament.

    "We think that al-Qaida threat might be implemented by the Saleh regime to make some sort of intimidation of others, and using this for abusing of the heads of opposition and a lot of forces in Yemen."

    Only “one way out,” some believe

    Ghanem believes the best way out is to take the risk of political change.  

    "We think that the stabilizing system which is going to be alive after the success of the revolution will be able to deal with this challenge in Yemen.  So we do not think we are going to face that dangerous threat by al-Qaida."

    Ghanem is a rare optimist in a country facing threats from so many sides.

    Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora