Al Qaeda-linked militants seized control of another town in southern Yemen only 100 miles from Sana’a over the weekend. Ongoing street opposition and deteriorating security threaten a planned presidential election in February and efforts to restore order after the signing of the Gulf Cooperation Council deal last November.
Al Qaeda fighters have taken control of a town 100 miles southeast of Sana’a and freed 150 inmates from its central prison. Fifty armed militants met “little resistance” from security forces on Saturday when they entered the town of Rada'a in al Bayda governorate on Saturday. Tareq al Dhahab, their leader, is the brother-in-law of radical Islamist cleric Anwar al Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike last September.
Yemeni Foreign Minister and Saleh regime insider Abu Bakr al Qirbi announced Monday that the expansion of al Qaeda in the south could delay the presidential election scheduled for February 21. The announcement is expected to exacerbate the protest movement throughout Yemen. Militant leader al Dhahab’s brother accused security forces of colluding with the al Qaeda operatives in the seizure of Rada'a in an interview on Monday, further increasing the chances of a protest movement backlash.
A Norwegian U.N. official was kidnapped in Sana’a over the weekend. His captors are from Ma’rib, the oil-rich governorate adjacent to Sana’a, and are reportedly demanding the release of a man suspected of killing two security force members.
A 48-hour deadline for armed forces to withdraw from Sana’a passed Saturday with no result. A committee formed to demilitarize the capital had issued the deadline on Thursday. Republican Guard troops and tribal fighters remain in the city, and the violence continues.
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