Yemen: the stakes are higher; in the last few months instability in Yemen has increased, reaching the highest levels since the civil war in 1994.

Author:Willems, Peter
Position:Current Affairs

The British and US governments recently issued stern warnings to their citizens against travelling to Yemen. The US State Department advised Americans that terrorists linked to Al Qaeda have plans to strike US interests, while the British government went further by advising British citizens residing in Yemen to consider leaving. On 29 December, an alleged Yemeni gunman crept into the Baptist Hospital in the town of Jibla and killed three American missionaries while wounding a fourth. "I have never felt more threatened in Yemen," says a foreign businessman based in Sana'a, Yemen's capital. "I am constantly looking over my shoulder, afraid that I could be a target at any given moment." Terrorist threats aimed at foreign interests in Yemen have been associated with the bombing last November of a resort hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, leaving 16 dead. But US involvement in fighting terrorism in Yemen has also been seen pushing terrorist threats higher. In early November a US Hellfire missile, fired from an unmanned Predator drone, struck a car travelling in the Marib province approximately 100 km east of Sana'a. Six Al Qaeda operatives were killed, including Qaed Salim Sinan Al Harethi, known as one of the top Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen and allegedly involved in the bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden in 2000 that killed 17 US soldiers. There are high expectations of retaliation against US or other foreign interests as a result of the missile attack.

But while concern for the safety of foreigners is high, many believe it is the Yemeni government that is more at risk. "In all probability, it is President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government that will be targeted in retaliation for the missile attack in Marib," says a foreign diplomat.

Soon after the missile strike, there were two bombings near the homes of senior Yemeni security officials, one in Sana'a and the other in Marib. Government officials say the bombings, similar to the wave of attacks against government officials late last spring, came from members of Al Qaeda or sympathizers of the terrorist organisation aiming at the government for cooperating with the United States in its war on terror.

Another concern is the anger that has erupted among the Yemeni people. "The anger is overwhelming, and it is directed more against the Yemeni government than the United States because it is more at fault," says Saeed Thabet, spokesman for the Islamist party, Islah. "What angers the Yemenis is that the...

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