US targets al-Qa'ida as Yemen faces civil war

Tribesmen have seized large parts of Taiz, Yemen's second-largest city, forcing government forces back to the palace and hospital

The US has stepped up its covert air war against al-Qa'ida in Yemen as the country appears to be descending into civil war and government authority disintegrates. US aircraft are reported to have killed militant suspects in south Yemen last week, and pilotless drones have been used in attacks against other al-Qa'ida targets.

Army units loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh fired shots into the air in the capital, Sanaa, yesterday, claiming that he is about to return from Saudi Arabia where he is in hospital being treated for wounds sustained in an explosion in a mosque in the presidential compound last Friday. US and Arab officials say a bomb was planted in the mosque, and the President was not hit by a rocket or shell fired by the opposition as they said originally.

Amid signs that government control, never strong in Yemen, is weakening, armed tribesmen have seized large parts of the second-biggest city Taiz, 150 miles south of Sanaa. Government forces are still holding a presidential palace and hospital in the centre of the city of one million people; tribesmen hold the rest.

A shaky truce is holding in Sanaa since the bomb attack that killed 11 presidential guards and wounded several senior officials as well as the President. US officials in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, had said he was burnt over 40 per cent of his body and it would be weeks, if not months, before he could exercise power.

But the government website claimed yesterday that "he has overcome health difficulties after successful surgery to remove shrapnel". A Saudi official was quoted as saying that he is undergoing cosmetic surgery to treat "light burns on the scalp". If President Saleh does return, fighting is likely to erupt immediately, but, even if he does not, military units commanded by members of his family and their allies will not give up power easily. The US and Saudi Arabia have been trying to arrange an orderly transition of power through the Vice-President, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The US says it is worried that al-Qa'ida will use the chaos to expand its influence, though the numbers of al-Qa'ida in Yemen have been put at about 300 to 400 in a nation of 24 million.

The defence ministry says that 12 suspected al-Qa'ida members were killed as government troops fought towards Zinjibar, a town in the south taken by militants last week. But critics in Sanaa say that President Saleh encouraged Islamic fundamentalist fighters to take over the town to frighten the US into again backing his government. Zinjibar, where 50,000 people once lived, is now said to be a ghost town.

The US has declared Yemen to be the most important stronghold of al-Qa'ida, but recent bomb attacks directed against the US from the country over the past year have been abortive. And even failed al-Qa'ida plots have a political impact on the US out of all proportion to their significance or likelihood of success.

A drone strike on 5 May was directed at US-born al-Qa'ida cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, influential because of his intelligence, eloquence and command of English, and failed to kill him only because of a malfunctioning motor.

The al-Qa'ida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, believed to be in Pakistan, has declared solidarity with the uprising, saying on a video that Yemenis should not be tricked by the US and its Gulf allies "who want to replace one American agent with another".

Parts of Yemen are cut off from each other because of the collapse of security, so people are beginning to go hungry because basic foodstuffs cannot be delivered and there is a shortage of fuel, water, gas and electricity.

In Sanaa, shops have closed because of fear of fighting or looting and many government ministries are not functioning. The World Food Programme says that the prices of wheat-flour, sugar and vegetables have doubled since last year.

The street protests which first began to erode President Saleh's rule after he had held power for 32 years have been marginalised by other opponents of the old regime. These include important tribes and part of the armed forces. The protesters say they reject any deal with the pro-Saleh forces chanting "No to Saleh's return."

Suggested Topics
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories