Stratfor.com's Global Intelligence Update - 13 October 2000
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Yemen's Deadly Appeal
Officially, the U.S. military uses Yemen to refuel naval vessels.
But what is the United States really doing in Yemen? The American
military appears interested in much more than fuel. Yemen is at the
center of an important global competition - and a domestic
Anatomy of an Attack
The failure of U.S. terrorist countermeasures in the attack on the
USS Cole in Port Aden highlights weakness in port security.
Could the United States have prevented this tragedy by working more
closely with the Yemeni government on security measures?
Hotspot: Middle East
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your best source for developments in the Middle East.
Explosion in Yemen: The Suspect List
With the attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, at least six
Americans have been killed, 35 have been wounded and a dozen
sailors are missing. In the hours since the attack, no terrorist
group has publicly claimed responsibility for the incident - and
none has denied it. But clues so far point to one of two groups:
one based in Egypt, another homegrown in Yemen. Both have ties to
Osama bin Laden.
At least eight important terrorist groups are known to operate in
Yemen, a mix of both local groups and international organizations
with links elsewhere in the Arab world. Six at this point seem
unlikely to have conducted such a dramatic operation against a U.S.
But two groups - one a local Yemeni group and another rooted in
Egypt -have motives, at least one has stated that it wants U.S.
forces out of Yemen, and both have strong links to Osama bin
Laden's Al Qaida organization. The local Yemeni organization, the
Islah Party has opposed the U.S. military's use of Yemen as a port.
With the help of a militant wing, it has been involved in a long
dispute over the U.S. presence and has warned against U.S. military
use of the port at Aden.
At the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is one of the poorest
nations in the Middle East and a lawless nation. The current
central government in Sanaa is weak and the country is torn by
tribal factionalism and a history of kidnapping foreigners,
especially Europeans and Americans.
Promote global intelligence and forward it to a friend.
So far no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. But the
list of active terrorist organizations in the country is
comparatively long. It includes: the Palestinian Hamas, the
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the
Egyptian al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya. In addition, the Algerian Armed
Islamic Group (GIA) operates in Yemen.
At this point, many of these seem unlikely to have conducted the
attack, particularly Palestinian organizations. Hamas has resorted
to suicide attacks but does not use Yemen as a major area of
operations. And the attack on the American target seems unlikely to
influence the besieged peace process. On the day of the attack, CIA
Director George Tenet met with Palestinian National Authority
leader Yasser Arafat.
Another Palestinian group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) also
has official representation in Yemen but seems unlikely to have
conducted the bombing. The PIJ has not been known to attack U.S.
interests. The Algerian GIA is extremely violent, but not known for
But an Egyptian group emerges as an important possible player -
either alone, or in concert with a local organization -- in this
drama. The Al-Gama'at al'Islamiyaa has the infrastructure and
network to conduct a significant strike. Al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya
(IG) also has members in Yemen. The group has opposed the U.S.
presence in the region because it helps support the Egyptian
For more on Yemen, see:
In addition to the IG, an important local organization emerges: the
Islah Party of Yemen. The party is an opposition group intent on
turning the country into an Islamic state. Last year, the group
issued a warning against the government's granting of military
facilities to the U.S. Navy. Nearly a year to the day of today's
attack, a Yemeni newspaper was banned for reporting on an attempt
by the Navy to use facilities at Socotra, an island in the Indian
Ocean, according to AFP.
One of the leaders of the Islah Party and its militant wing, Abdul
Majid Zandani, reportedly has close ties to Osama bin Laden, the
leader of Al Qaida. Both men reportedly served together in
Afghanistan fighting the Soviet occupation in the 1990s. In 1993,
Zandani also leads the militant wing and in 1993, condemned the
U.S. military's use of Aden as a base for operations in Somalia.
U.S. troops left Aden following the bombing of their hotels,
according to 1993 reports by Agence France Press.
At this point, a third group - again a local organization -seems a
more distant possibility than the Islah Party. The Army of Aden-
Abyan often targets American citizens and opposes the American
presence in the region. However, the group's operations generally
center on kidnapping. The group's leader, Zein al-Abideen al-
Mehdar, better known as Abu Hassan, was executed in 1999 for
participating in the December 1998 kidnapping of 16 Western
tourists -- even though Zandani called for Hassan's release. The
group emerged in 1997 but seems to be only a small player.
Islah and Zandani play an important role in Yemeni politics. The
political leader of the fundamentalist party, Sheik Abdallah bin
Hussein al-Ahmar acknowledged in 1998 that the group had ties to
the Egyptian fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, reported the
Mideast Mirror. Zandani himself has traveled to Sudan to meet with
the Sudanese Islamic leader Hassan Turabi, most notably during
Turabi's Islamic conference in 1997.
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