Friday, April 24, 2015

Bog 10: Al Qaeda in Yemen using chaos of war to carve out terrorism haven

A brazen territorial grab by Al Qaeda militants in Yemen — together with a $1-million bank heist, a prison break and capture of a military base — has given the terrorist group fundraising and recruitment tools that suggest it is following the brutal path blazed by Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which was long forced into the shadows by U.S. drone strikes and commando raids, has taken advantage of the growing chaos in Yemen's multi-sided war to carve out a potential haven that counter-terrorism experts say could help it launch terrorist attacks. After seizing a regional airport and a coastal oil terminal this week, Al Qaeda militants consolidated their gains Friday in Mukalla, an Arabian Sea port. AQAP has repeatedly attempted to smuggle sophisticated bombs onto passenger jets and cargo planes headed for the United States. U.S. intelligence considers it the terrorist network's most active and most dangerous franchise and says it has a global strategy. The fighting in Yemen has hobbled a long-established U.S. counter-terrorism operation, forcing a special operations unit and intelligence officials to destroy equipment and abandon the country last month. Yemen has been engulfed in conflict since last fall, when a Shiite Muslim minority group called the Houthis overran the capital city, Sana, and took over much of the government. AQAP has captured territory before. In 2011, the group took advantage of political turmoil sparked by anti-government protests to seize several cities in Yemen's south and east. In mid-2012, military forces and local tribes loyal to Hadi's government in Sana pushed them back into a rugged eastern enclave.

Clifton Coleman



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