Al-Qaeda group gaining prominence in Yemen

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Sanaa (Yemen), Dec. 28 (ANI): A branch of al-Qaeda is gaining prominence in Yemen following the attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight last week.

The Washington Post has quoted Yemeni and Western officials, terrorism analysts, and tribal leaders, as saying that Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, may have been equipped and trained by an al-Qaeda bombmaker in Yemen.

He allegedly made that claim to FBI agents after his arrest.

If the claim is true, it represents a significant increase in the activities of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the emergence of a major new threat to the United States, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, they add.

"Al-Qaeda started in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula, but it was raised and nurtured in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other places. Now, it is clear that it is coming back to its roots and growing in Yemen," claimed Saeed Obaid, a Yemeni terrorism expert.

The branch, known as AQAP, is still a work in progress, officials and analysts said. It is led by a new generation of Yemeni and Saudi militants keen on transforming Yemen into a launching pad for jihad against the United States, its Arab allies and Israel.

They have used Yemen's vast stretches of ungoverned, rugged terrain; loose-knit tribal structures and codes; widespread sympathy for al-Qaeda; and animosity toward U.S. policies to lure new recruits and set up training bases.

The group has yet to notch a catastrophic attack against the United States or its allies, suggesting that the organization is still too weak to operate effectively outside Yemen.

Yet despite operative failures and setbacks, it has shown a resilience and ability to quickly regroup and cause havoc inside the country.

The branch appears to be trying to fill a void left by al-Qaeda's central body, led by Osama bin Laden, which has been weakened by military assaults in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Although the branch mostly operates independently, AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, who comes from a wealthy family and once served as bin Laden's personal secretary, is believed to have strong contacts with the al-Qaeda head, analysts say.

The Yemeni government, under heavy U.S. pressure and with significant U.S. assistance, has intensified its efforts to crack down on the al-Qaeda branch.

In the past 10 days, it has launched aerial and ground raids that Yemeni officials say have killed more than 50 militants. (ANI)

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