Al-Qaeda plans 'army'  in southern Yemen

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is planning to form an army in Aden and Abyan with the aim of establishing "God's law", according to a recorded speech by its military leader, Qasim al-Raimi, which has been posted on the internet.

In the recording, he described the proposed army as "a line of defence for the nation and its religion, setting free its sanctities and cleansing its territory of the Crusaders and their apostate agents".

Al-Qaeda is clearly trying to tap into local discontent in southern Yemen and what we are probably seeing is the emergence of not one but two struggles to "liberate" the south from the Salih regime: al-Qaeda on one hand and the Southern Movement on the other. They are essentially separate though the lines between them can be blurred and it's often unclear which to blame for what.

Yesterday, for instance, Abdullah al-Baham – a senior police officer – was shot dead in Mudia/Mudiyah (Abyan province) during clashes between armed demonstrators and security forces. The occasion was a protest to mark the 47th anniversary of the southern uprising against British colonial rule. A security official blamed supporters of the Southern Movement for the killing; the Southern Movement in turn blamed a masked man "who belongs to al-Qaeda".

Shortly after that, a convoy carrying Ahmed Mohammed al-Maisari, the governor of Abyan, and Khaled al-Mirwani, the provincial police chief, was ambushed. The governor's brother, Ali Mohammed al-Maisari (a member of the ruling party), was killed, along with a soldier. Apparently, they were on their way to investigate the earlier attack.

AFP also reported yesterday that Colonel Riyadh al-Khatabi, the intelligence chief for Seiyun/Sayyun (Hadramaut province) had died in hospital after being seriously wounded by armed motorcyclists on Wednesday.

Noting the large number of motorcycle attacks in Yemen, the recently-revived Waq al-Waq blog has dubbed 2010 "The year of the motorbike assassination":

The motorbike jihadis have become such a menace in Yemen that a few weeks ago the government banned them in Zanjibar out of fear of similar attacks ... The number of security officials who have been assassinated by men on motorcycles is – if memory serves – nearly three-quarters of the assassinations. In 2007 and 2008, al-Qaeda preferred ambushes and bombs.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 15 October 2010.