One day after Yemen announced the arrest of an 11-man al-Qaeda cell, the organization attempted to strike back on May 30 with an attack on an oil refinery in the southern port city of Aden. The attack caused little damage, but called into question statements by Yemen’s Interior Ministry that it was on the verge of dismantling the Soldier’s Brigade of Yemen, an apparent al-Qaeda offshoot which has claimed credit for a series of attacks in recent months (al-Hayat, May 30).
The group claimed credit for the attack in a statement posted to the jihadi website al-ekhlaas.net on May 31 (al-ekhlaas.net, May 31). The statement was the group’s eighth since it first announced its existence on February 24. Despite the group’s rhetoric about expelling infidels from the Arabian Peninsula, its various attacks have not resulted in the deaths of any Westerners. Instead, it has only managed some structural damage and the deaths of a number of Yemenis.
This apparent ineptitude has not gone unnoticed in jihadi circles outside of Yemen. In a statement posted to al-ekhlaas.net on May 26, al-Qaeda called on its “brothers in Yemen to return to the days of attacks like those on the USS Cole and the Limburg and the like, as these attacks have an effect on people today” (News Yemen, May 26). The statement went on to say that neither “attacking [President] Ali Abdullah Salih’s house or killing Yemeni soldiers was useful at this time,” referencing some of the group’s previous targets. It also differentiated between Yemeni soldiers and policemen and those in Iraq. Only the latter, the statement claimed, are legitimate targets as they are in league with the United States (News Yemen, May 26).
Still Yemen seems confident that it is nearing a breakthrough in its struggle against terrorism. On the same day al-Qaeda issued its corrective to its Yemeni colleagues, the Interior Ministry announced that it would soon release the names and pictures of 70 “terrorists” (News Yemen, May 26). Included among the 70 are al-Qaeda operatives as well as members of the Shabab al-Mu’minin, or followers of Abd al-Malik al-Huthi, Zaydi Shiites who have been waging war against the state since June 2004. Over the past few weeks, the periodic conflict between the two sides has once again erupted in heavy fighting.
The listing of both sets of suspects on one list seems a deliberate confusing of the two conflicts by Yemen in order to link its domestic worries to larger regional and Western concerns of a resurgent al-Qaeda threat. It later emerged from the reporting of Faysal Mukrim of the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat that 30 of the suspects are affiliated with al-Qaeda (al-Hayat, May 30). He also reported that the 11-man al-Qaeda cell consisted of six Saudis, three Chadians and two Yemenis, and that security sources within Yemen were confident that the information the suspects had provided would prove instrumental in rolling up the network (al-Hayat, May 30).
But so far this seems to have had little impact on the Soldier’s Brigade of Yemen. The same user, Jund al-Iman, who has posted all of the group’s statements on al-ekhlaas.net also posted the statement claiming credit for the attack on the Aden oil refinery. The network, at least for the moment, appears to be functioning without interruption.