This is the 4th part of a short explainer article series on the current crisis in Yemen. To read the earlier parts of the series click on the following links.
To read the 1st part of the series click on the link.
To read the 2nd part of the series click on the link.
To read the 3rd part of the series click on the link.
The unification of Yemen in 1990 was a direct result of the military defeat of South Yemen at the hand of North Yemen forces. This military defeat and coerced unification implied that Unified Yemen could not achieve real cohesion, preventing the functioning of the nation as a democratic unit.
Meanwhile, newer elements were added to the dangerous mix of sub-nationalism, intra religious division, and tribal loyalty in Yemen. These were the Yemeni veterans of Soviet-Afghan war who fought with the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet army backing the Afghan government.
These were hardline Wahabi and Salafi fighters, following an idealogy that mandated a strict interpretation of Islam. The fighters returned to Yemen in the early 1990s, after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The local Yemeni, both the Zaidi Shias or Maliki Sunni have traditionally followed a more liberal version of Islamic and social practices. Unlike the local Sunnis who were living in peaceful coexistence with the Zaidis Shia, these hardliners were antagonistic to the Shias.
Their arrival was followed by a forceful realignment of the local residents’ religious practices, mandating the local population to strict interpretations and social practices. Osama bin Laden, who had family roots in Yemen, was a conveniently placed ideological mentor. This led to a pushback from both the government forces as well as Shia groups, especially the Houthi-led Ansar Allah movement. In time, these former mujahideen, who were battle hardened and well versed in guerilla warfare, allied themselves with Al-Qaeda to start a low level insurgency in Yemen.
The Gulf war and subsequent stationing of American forces in Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries provided another impetus for the growth of Al Qaeda in Yemen. Consequently, they demanded that coalition forces leave Arabian land, failing which would result in more terror attacks.
Al-Qaeda affiliated groups attacked many installations associated with the US-led coalition forces in Yemen and nearby countries. The most successful of those was the famous bombing of USS Cole in Aden, in 2000. It was followed by a series of attacks leading up to 9/11.
Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) is also known as the Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen is fighting to set up an emirate amidst the lack of leadership post the Houthi rebellion. It was this outfit that claimed responsibility for the attack on the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in 2015 and is now considered the most dangerous al-Qaeda outfit by the US.
The CNN reported that “AQAP set out its objectives in a May 2010 statement as the "expulsion of Jews and crusaders" from the Arabian Peninsula, the re-establishment of the Islamic caliphate, the introduction of Sharia, or Islamic law, and the liberation of Muslim lands.”
The full list of attacks and places captured by terrorist insurgents in chronological order can be accessed here.
One of the outcomes of continual terrorist attacks has been a reduction in Hadi’s popularity. He is also seen as weak for not being able to stop al-Qaeda from terrorising Southern Yemen, as well as for not being able to alleviate them from their feeling of marginalization ever since the unification.
To read the 5th part of the series click on the link.