“Arab Spring” = Clusterfuck
(LA Times) — Hundreds of Yemeni and foreign fighters, including members of an Al Qaeda affiliate, are pouring into a provincial capital after government forces fled in chaos, according to a local official and a fighter who described himself as an Al Qaeda member.
The chaos in Yemen has provided an opening for tribal fighters to assert themselves in some parts of the country, and to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a militant group that has targeted the United States.
The head of Zinjibar’s city council, Col. Qasim Muhammed Hadi, said fighters descended from the mountains and entered the city unopposed in late May. Hadi said he alerted local security forces, but neither the army nor police responded.
The Abyan provincial governor also requested help, but found that security commanders had all fled the city, Hadi said.
“Credible local citizens confirmed to me recently that they had seen foreigners with Al Qaeda militants including men of Saudi, Somali and Sudanese nationalities,” said Hadi, who has fled to the city of Aden. He said more fighters were coming, and he feared that the city was becoming a haven for Islamic militants.
An estimated 30,000 people had fled to Aden and nearby Lahj province, he said.
Government units launched airstrikes Wednesday and were shelling the city. Officials said they had killed 30 insurgent fighters Tuesday.
Just days ago, U.S. officials and Western analysts had dismissed the idea that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had seized any territory.
A U.S. official briefed on the latest intelligence reports said Wednesday that the militant group had not taken over Abyan province, but “there is a pretty big AQAP presence in Zinjibar.”