Source : Washington Post,
by Column Lynch, 13/03/2012
UNITED NATIONS — A reinvigorated al-Qaeda has made “alarming” advances in Yemen, expanding its military control over several southern towns and launching a series of brazen attacks that threaten the U.S.-backed political transition there, a senior U.N. envoy warned the Security Council in a confidential briefing last week.
“The scale of these attacks serves as a stark reminder of the security threat posed by al-Qaeda,” Jamal Benomar, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, told the 15-nation council Wednesday, according to a copy of the briefing notes obtained by The Washington Post. “Despite all counterterrorism efforts, al-Qaeda in Yemen has not retreated.”
Yemen’s uprising and the political instability that has followed have pushed the country to the brink of a humanitarian crisis. And children have especially suffered.
Members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the group’s Yemen branch is known, have been “intensifying their attacks” against government targets since the election last month of Yemen’s new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Benomar told the council. Hadi, the former vice president, replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh after 33 years in power in a transition brokered by Arab leaders and supported by the United States.
On inauguration day, Feb. 25, al-Qaeda struck a presidential palace in the provincial capital of Mukalla, killing 26 officers.
More recently, Benomar said, al-Qaeda has launched a series of attacks on military bases in the south, killing more than 180 soldiers and capturing heavy weapons. Dozens of soldiers, he added, were reportedly paraded through the town square of Jaar, which has been held by al-Qaeda for several months.
The gloomy account underscored the challenges of confronting an enemy that has shown resilience since the United States succeeded last year in killing its leader, Osama bin Laden, and Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric who was a skilled propagandist and who had a key role in external operations for the Yemen affiliate, according to U.S. officials.
The report also highlighted al-Qaeda’s effort to plant roots in Yemen, forming alliances with local tribal leaders while providing basic services to communities.
“This recent campaign launched by al-Qaeda poses a new challenge to the new government,” Benomar said. “It continues to control strategic territory in the south and evolve as a major threat.
The group is also increasing their social leverage by ensuring security, administering justice and providing basic social services in the local communities under their control.”
Benomar said that Yemen’s new president has made a “clear commitment” to combat al-Qaeda but that “many Yemenis doubt how progress on this front could be achieved with a fractured army with multiple loyalties.”
On Saturday, the military launched airstrikes that killed 18 militants linked to al-Qaeda in central Yemen and wounded nine in the south, according to the Associated Press.
In response to Benomar’s briefing, a U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence, conceded that the threat posed by al-Qaeda in Yemen “is real,” allowing the terrorist organization “to seize territory in southern Yemen.”