Abyan, The New Modern Homeland of Al-Qaeda

By Shokri Husein

developing events of last week brought al-Qaeda to the main cities of Abyan governorate in the South, 35 kilometers away from Aden.

Moreover, over 170 people were killed and hundreds injured at the explosion of military weapon factory.  But despite this, Abyan continues to be known as a center of the youth revolution who called for changing the regime since two years ago, mainly with the start of al-Hirak movement.

On July 23rd, 2009, 23 people were killed and fifty injured when Tariq al-Fadhli called for the first protests in Abyan.

Last week the same story has been repeated to mark a new disaster against the civilian in the governorate of Abyan. The people in Ja’ar, Lawdar and Mudhia cities and the surrounding villages accused the security forces of handing over their areas to what is being called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The provincial capital of Zinjibar remains secured, but is not far away from the threat of al-Qaeda and the armed groups.

Abyan, has been out of the media spotlight, as well as out of the capital Sana’a’s control, like some other governorates in the North. In surprising news, Mudhia city in Abyan announced al-Qaeda’s taking over control of the central security campus, taking many heavy military weapons and small arms.

The soldiers made it easy for al-Qaeda by leaving their positions quietly, which pushed al-Qaeda to announce that Lawdar, Mudhia, and al-Wadea –  the homeland of Deputy President AbdulRabu Mansour Hadi – an Islamic emirate with an ambiguous absence of the security forces.

This action raised many questions about the movement that is called al-Qaeda.

The people could not believe the loss of these cities, or the news that Ja’ar the second biggest city, fell by the hands of Islamist groups who took over control of the city last Saturday.

The Islamist groups overran the political security campus as well the civil police station, as they surrounded the military post at the top of nearby Khanfar mountain, the presidential palace and the local radio broadcasting building.

The military forces made it easy for al-Qaeda to celebrate its victory to drive all military elements from the streets of Abyan without any apparent resistance. Later on, news agencies released the new statement issued by al-Qeada members in the Arabian peninsula that Abyan is an Islamic Emirate and they called women not to go out to the street without their men and that they should hold their identification cards.

On Monday morning, life was quite normal, but people were expecting a disaster after the news of al-Qeada’s withdrawal from the 7th October factory for manufacturing small arms.

On the same day, citizens ran to the palace to take what is left after the departure of al-Qeada militants. Poverty pushed them to die in a miserable way, as some were left in small pieces as a result of the explosion in the factory.

Some families were dead in groups and in others, only a few children were left alive. One Hundred and seventy passed away and tens are injured and they are in Aden’s hospitals.

The government had a different reaction on the explosion, accusing al-Qaeda members of killing the poor people.  But sadness overtook the whole governorate, over the lack of responsibility over the faulty protection of the military factory.

The people said that some officials at the government offices wanted al-Qaeda to show off and move freely for crass political reasons. People continued their anger against the government in ignoring the disaster by expressing no official statement for the victims.

This is while president sent his personal condolences to the family of the person who killed himself for hearing the news of Saleh will step down. The people in Abyan called it an instance of clear discrimination among the citizens of Yemen.

The new governor of Abyan, Brigadier General Saleh Husein al-Zawari, ex-deputy interior minister, who first accused the security and military officials in the governorate of responsibility for the sad event.

He called for investigating the matter in a meeting of local authorities where he came to accuse Islamic groups of responsibility for what happened.

But only two days later the governor came to contradict with his first statement, which reveals the misunderstandings and confusion in of the government.

The factory dated back to the early seventies during the rule of former Southern President Salem Robea Ali.

In 1972, the factory was built by Chinese experts as a results of the good relations between South Yemen and the Communist bloc.

The factory was operating by a Yemeni hands, 70% of which were women. Later after the summer civil war in 1994, the factory witnessed serious neglect, as many of the employees were dismissed, and corruption spiked as ownership was transferred to a personal firm.

Lately Korean experts operated the factory for the benefit of the military forces in Abyan. Last Sunday, a day before the tragic blasts, al-Qaeda took the vast majority of its weapons.