Yemen Crisis Situation Reports: Update 125

January 20, 2012

Al Qaeda-linked operatives hold onto Rada’a just 100 miles from the Yemeni capital. The capture of Rada’a has expanded the territory that al Qaeda-linked militants now control in southern Yemen. Political turmoil in Sana’a continues to threaten the successful implementation of the Gulf Cooperation Council deal signed last November.

Tareq al Dhahab, the al Qaeda-linked leader of the militants who seized Rada’a last weekend, released a video on Thursday. He announced that the capture of Rada’a is the beginning of the formation of an Islamic Caliphate and the “liberation” of the Arabian Peninsula, this despite an earlier offer that his men would withdraw from the city if 15 al Qaeda prisoners were released.

Accusations fly in Sana’a that President Ali Abdullah Saleh purposefully let armed men take the city of Rada’a. Local tribal leaders and senior opposition party members have openly accused Saleh of having a hand in the attack with the goal of upsetting the presidential elections scheduled for February 21. Protesters in Rada’a marched the city streets on Wednesday shouting, “Saleh’s family has sold Rada’a.”

Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi denied rumors on Wednesday that the upcoming presidential elections would be delayed by the recent turmoil. His comments during an interview on Monday had suggested that the security situation would make it difficult to hold elections planned for February 21.

The proposed law granting Saleh and his associates sweeping immunity has been amended. Now the legislation only covers “political cases,” the Legal Affairs Minister confirmed on Thursday. Thousands of protesters across Yemen continue to march against the law, which would still protect many of those responsible for violence against protesters over the past year.

The pattern of violence continues in the southern port city of Aden, the former capital of south Yemen. Unknown attackers killed three soldiers at a checkpoint in the port city on Friday. Aden’s chief of security barely escaped a third assassination attempt on Tuesday. Militants associated with al Qaeda have taken advantage of a year of turmoil to encroach into the areas surrounding the strategic city.        

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