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Al-Qeada in Abyan escalates by attacking tribesmen.

Sana'a, Aug. 21 -- Rebel militant groups in Abyan believed to be close to Al-Qaeda escalated violence on Sunday morning by committing two simultaneous suicidal operations. This time the attacks targeted local tribes, rather than military forces. The attacks took place in two of the central areas of Abyan, Moudia and Lauder. In Moudia three people were killed. In Lauder the attacks left 11 tribesmen dead and injured several others, who were taken to al-Baida Hospital. Moudia's attack targeted Abu Bakr Al-Ashal, the head of the ruling party in Moudia. Al-Ashal was also a leading figure of Ashal's tribes and the brother-in-law of the governor. He was killed by a man wearing an explosive belt. "The man who committed the suicidal attack came over to Al-Ashal where he was sitting with two others, chatting. The guy greeted them and sat for a bit and then pressed the button that ended him with the others," said Ahmed Yaslem, a freelance reporter in Abyan. Yaslem said that targeting Al-Ashal was a big move for Al-Qaeda as Al-Ashal was an important political and social figure. Moudia's attack occurred at 10:10 pm, at the same moment as the other attack in Lauder. The Lauder attack was on the main road from Moudia to Lauder at a tribal checkpoint controlled by the Al-Nakha'een tribes. "Someone was distributing money in Al-Arkub -- it might have been Zakat [donations made by Muslims during Ramadan] -- when an explosive-laden car leveled the area," tribal sources told the Yemen times. The same sources said that the attack against Al-Jada'een came in response to the killing of four Al-Qaeda members the day before. More than 20 tribes held a meeting two months ago and vowed to expel Al-Qeada and any other militant groups in the area. They said they would start with Lauder, Moudia and Jaa'r, the central areas of Abyan, before joining the war in Zinjibar, Abyan's capital. "We [the tribes] decided to protect our lands from these militants groups, so we vowed to decontaminate Lauder first then Zinjibar "said Ahmed al-Aydaros from Al-Wadhe'a tribes in Abyan. Al-Aydaros said that targeting tribesmen by suicidal attack is a very dangerous escalation, because the means available to protect against these types of attacks are weak. "Now all the tribes should come together again to fight strongly. We will call another tribal meeting to decide how we should resist the militant groups," he added. Al-Aydaros noted that there are one or two members of Al-Qaeda from each tribe in Abyan. "The tribes have started fighting their own members, those whom they know to be members of Al-Qeada," he explained. "This is one of the best ways to beat them." These attacks against the tribesmen have dangerous implications, according to the journalist Yaslem. "This is the first time Al-Qaeda or any other militant groups have directly target tribesmen instead of military forces. They are trying to send a message to the tribesmen to stop them from siding with the government against them," said Yaslem. Political analyst Ahmed Al-Zurqa agrees that this is a dangerous escalation by Al-Qeada, especially considering that it staged two attacks in different areas at the same time. "These attacks wouldn't happen if the militant groups didn't have full information of the area. Because they are from the area, it is easier for them to make multiple plans of attack," said Al-Zurqa. Al-Zurqa also believes that these attacks are a way to discourage the tribes from siding with the government and fighting against the militants. The big fear now according to Al-Zurqa is that this suicidal style will create a pattern for others to follow in other cities and governorates such as Aden, if international actors do not condemn the attacks and help to stop them in the future. It is important to mention that this was not the first time Yemeni tribesmen have been targeted. On July 30, 35 tribesmen near Zinjibar fell victim to government airstrikes, although they were fighting on the regime's side against the militant groups. Suicidal attacks are hard to avoid because of their unpredictability. While Al-Aydaros expresses his fear of this fact, Al-Zurqa believes that this will strengthen the tribal role in expelling these militant groups. Even if they are unable to follow their plan of coordinated fighting, he explains, each tribe is likely to be successful in protecting its own area. What will help the tribes in expelling the militant groups is their full awareness of the identities of those tribesmen who have aligned with the militant groups.

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Publication:Yemen Times (Sana'a, Yemen)
Date:Aug 22, 2011
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