News / Middle East

With President Absent, Yemen Battles Islamist Militants

A Yemeni army officer stands at a checkpoint in Sana'a, Yemen, June 9, 2011
A Yemeni army officer stands at a checkpoint in Sana'a, Yemen, June 9, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
Elizabeth Arrott

Yemeni officials say government forces have killed 12 people suspected of links to al-Qaida as they battle to regain territory lost to Islamist militants in the south of the country. This comes as a leading American newspaper says the U.S. has stepped up air attacks on suspected extremists during Yemen's political unrest.

The report of increased U.S. military strikes was welcomed by some in Yemen, who have feared the growing influence of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and other militant Islamist groups.

The New York Times, quoting unidentified U.S. officials, said Washington resumed the air strikes in recent weeks, fearing Yemen's leadership crisis would allow militants to make headway.

Yemeni journalist and political analyst Nasser Arrabyee says, with President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Saudi Arabia for treatment of wounds from an attack last Friday, the timing makes sense, especially in the south.

"It is getting worse there because Abyan, in particular, and Jahar, in more particular, is the stronghold of the jihadists," he said. "And what happens in Zinjibar is they declared it the second Islamic emirate after Jahar. Al-Qaida now is exploiting the unrest in the country - in the whole country, not only in the south. And what is happening now is that they are making some gains."

VOA's Susan Yackee speaks with Robert Powell, Senior Middle East analyst with The Economist intelligence unit, about the situation in Yemen:

Arrabyee argues that now is a good time to strike these forces, whether by the Yemeni government or the United States.

Yemen's defense ministry said Thursday that its forces had killed 12 militants in these southern areas although, in the past, it has overstated its claims as the government tried to prove itself a strong counter-terrorist ally.

Arrabyee says he is inclined to believe the latest report.

"It's difficult to say how many, but it is sure that dozens were killed from both sides," he said. "This is very possible because there was very fierce fighting over the last two days."  

The jihadist offensive comes against a backdrop of anti-government political protests which began four months ago. The calls for President Saleh's ouster turned violent in recent weeks, as tribal opponents of the government and other armed groups joined the fray.  

In the capital, Sana'a, an uneasy truce is holding between forces of the al-Ahmar clan and the government. But pressure continues to build for the interim government to move beyond Saleh's presidency and form a transitional council.

Protester Tareq Saeed was among the demonstrators out in force Thursday.

Saeed rejected reports from Saudi and Yemeni officials that Saleh's condition is improving, saying the demonstrators don't care. He said the most important point is that the president has left the country and "is finished," as he put it. Now, he added, is the time to look to building a new future.  

But the political reforms envisioned by the protesters would seem unattainable as long as al-Qaida and other jihadists continue to expand their influence. U.S. officials have spoken of the imperative of battling the militants.

So far, the success of the reported stepped-up campaign of air strikes is unclear. A U.S. drone attack last month targeted the Yemeni-American al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki, but missed, while The New York Times says another U.S. airstrike last Friday killed a mid-level al-Qaida operative in southern Yemen.

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

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs