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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Monday's bloodbath underlined a shift in tactics by the jihadists who are busy trying to transform themselves from a fringe group of militants into a fully-fledged domestic insurgency. "A year ago they [al-Qaeda] were numbered in the dozens, armed with light weapons and scattered here and there," Jamal Benomar, the United Nations envoy to Yemen, told TIME in Sana'a last week. "Now they are in their thousands with tanks and heavy weapons. For the first time in history al-Qaeda controls territory."
After pushing out army units and setting up de facto administrations — mini-Islamic fiefdoms — in the south, AQAP, a group the Pentagon claims are the most deadly in the Middle East, are turning their attention to more ambitious pursuits. From the Red Sea coastal plains of Hodeidah to the craggy valleys of the Hadhromout, AQAP have started dispatching teams to assassinate officials, blow up oil pipelines and kidnap foreigners as a means of financing their insurgency. A Swiss woman, one of two foreign aid workers seized from her car near Hodeidah last month — hundreds of miles from al-Qaeda's southern lairs — is now being held in Shabwa province in the south by AQAP fighters who are demanding $60 million for her release. Last week the Bulgarian ambassador's SUV was sprayed with bullets by kidnappers he eluded in the capital.
Read it all.
The U.S. drone killing of American-born and raised Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a major figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has re-energized a national debate over the legal and moral quandaries of a government deliberately killing a citizen.
The issue has been roiling throughout the U.S. campaign against terrorism, but Friday's drone missile killing of al-Awlaki and a second American, Samir Khan, provided a stark, concrete case of a U.S. policy that authorizes death for terrorists even when they're Americans, analysts said.
A government source who was briefed Friday morning by the CIA confirmed the U.S. missile strike, which killed two other persons in a car in Yemen.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia Yemen
The massacre in Taiz received little attention in the West, blending in with the larger chaos and violence enveloping the Arab world. In Syria, tanks were rolling through the streets of several cities, as months of protest evolved into a bloody national insurrection. In Libya, the civil war was festering into a grim status quo, with NATO airstrikes unable to dislodge Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi from his Tripoli stronghold. Even Egypt and Tunisia seemed endangered, with fresh violence breaking out and their economies in tatters.
Yet the events in Taiz took on a tragic dimension that went beyond the numbers of dead and wounded. Taiz is Yemen’s least tribal city, home to the highest number of educated people, professionals and traders. The city was “the heart of the revolution,” in one popular refrain, and its protesters were less politicized and more rigorously nonviolent than elsewhere in Yemen. The attack on May 29, with its deliberate cruelty and excess, confirmed what many Yemenis feared: that Saleh sees the democratic uprising as a greater threat to his power than Al Qaeda. The burning of the Taiz square, after all, coincided with the collapse of all government authority in large areas of south Yemen, where heavily armed jihadist groups have captured two towns and several villages. In the northwestern province of Saada, too, a militia movement now reigns supreme; they recently elected Yemen’s biggest arms dealer as their new governor. All this has implications that go well beyond Yemen’s remote mountains and deserts — the chaos in the north, for instance, threatens to set off a proxy conflict between the region’s two great nemeses, Saudi Arabia and Iran — and the Yemeni military has done little to oppose any of it.
Even after Saleh was flown to a hospital in Saudi Arabia in early June, wounded in a bomb blast at his palace mosque, his government — or what is left of it — seemed determined to crush the unarmed protesters while leaving the rest of the country open to some of the world’s most dangerous men....
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Asia Yemen * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
The CIA is expected to begin operating armed drone aircraft over Yemen, expanding the hunt for al-Qaeda operatives in a country where counter-terrorism efforts have been disrupted by political chaos, U.S. officials said.
The plan to move CIA-operated Predator and other unmanned aircraft into the region reflects a decision by President Obama that the al-Qaeda threat in Yemen has grown so serious that patrols by U.S. military drones are not enough.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia Yemen
Security forces loyal to Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh were locked in fierce gun battles on Tuesday in the capital Sana'a with guards from the country's most powerful tribal federation whose leader is backing protesters' demands for an end to the premier's 33-year rule.
At least 24 soldiers and 14 tribesmen were killed and 24 injured in the skirmishes, dimming the prospects for a negotiated solution to Yemen's political impasse.
The shootout, which pitted Saleh's central security forces against guards of Sadiq al-Ahmar, head of the Hashid tribal federation from which Saleh also hails, took place in sandbagged streets surrounding Ahmar's fortified compound, near several government ministries and the ruling party's headquarters.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Asia Yemen Middle East
A fightback by repressive governments is putting at risk a historic struggle for freedom and justice in the Arab world, Amnesty International says.
Publishing its annual report, the rights group highlights the fight for control over communications technology.
It criticises Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen for targeting peaceful protesters to stay in power.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Libya Asia Bahrain China Yemen Middle East Iran Syria
Counterterrorism operations in Yemen have ground to a halt, allowing Al Qaeda’s deadliest branch outside of Pakistan to operate more freely inside the country and to increase plotting for possible attacks against Europe and the United States, American diplomats, intelligence analysts and counterterrorism officials say.
In the political tumult surrounding Yemen’s embattled president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, many Yemeni troops have abandoned their posts or have been summoned to the capital, Sana, to help support the tottering government, the officials said. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group’s affiliate, has stepped in to fill this power vacuum, and Yemeni security forces have come under increased attacks in recent weeks.
A small but steadily growing stream of Qaeda fighters and lower-level commanders from other parts of the world, including Pakistan, are making their way to Yemen to join the fight there, although American intelligence officials are divided on whether the political crisis in Yemen is drawing more insurgents than would be traveling there under normal conditions.
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A quick search of YouTube today for “Anwar al-Awlaki” finds hundreds of his videos, most of them scriptural commentary or clerical advice, but dozens that include calls for jihad or attacks on the United States.
The story of You Tube and Mr. Awlaki is a revealing case study in the complexity of limiting controversial speech in the age of do-it-yourself media, as the House prepares for hearings next week on the radicalization of American Muslims.
In eloquent American English or Arabic with English subtitles, Mr. Awlaki can be seen in videos decrying America’s “war on Islam”; warning Muslims why they should “never, ever trust a kuffar,” or non-Muslim; praising the attempt by his “student” to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner; and patiently explaining why American civilians are legitimate targets for killings. Such videos have been posted in multiple copies and viewed hundreds or thousands of times.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary Asia Yemen * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
Ask counterterrorism experts what country in the Arab world worries them most and they say — hands down — that it is Yemen.
"I would put Yemen at the top of the list in part because there is so much direct concern about al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] trying to target and attack the United States," says Juan Zarate, a former deputy national security adviser for terrorism. "The reality is that AQAP is a viable network and group. Even if the numbers aren't in the thousands, just a few hundred of those types with the right kind of leadership training and inspiration can do quite a bit of damage."
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The threat from al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen is growing, but the U.S. military has few quick options to respond to the increasing danger, analysts say.
Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is reluctant to be viewed as being dependent on the United States, fearful that it will strengthen his critics, according to analysts.
"Ali Abdullah Saleh has made it clear on several occasions that he does not want any form of intervention or occupation," said Bob Sharp, a professor at the Pentagon-funded Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. "He is managing huge problems in the country."
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The U.S.-born Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki made what looks to be his most threatening message yet: calling on Muslims to kill Americans at will, because it is "either us or them."
The video posted on extremist websites Monday may be Awlaki's attempt to capitalize on his recent notoriety. Awlaki, who the United States believes is in Yemen, is accused by Yemen of playing a role in the sending of bombs through the mail in packages addressed to Chicago.
"I would think he would see his growing prominence as something he should exploit," said Robert Grenier, the former director of the CIA's counterterrorism center.
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The Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday that it is planning to impose new air cargo screening rules by Friday, in reaction to the recent securities gaps revealed by the the bomb plot in Yemen.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Travel * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Corporations/Corporate Life The U.S. Government Terrorism * International News & Commentary Asia Yemen
A US official has told the BBC that suspect packages from Yemen were intercepted in September, in what may have been a dry run for last week's foiled parcel bomb plot.
The shipments from Yemen to Chicago are reported to have contained literature and other materials, but no explosives.
The idea was to test how long it would take for the packages to reach their destination, US officials suspect.
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One of the two bombs mailed from Yemen and found on cargo jets in Dubai and Britain travelled on two passenger jets in the Middle East, according to a spokesman for Qatar Airways.
The airline spokesman said a package containing explosives hidden in a printer cartridge arrived in Qatar Airways' hub in Doha, on one of the carrier's flights from the Yemeni capital Sana'a.
It was then shipped on a separate Qatar Airways plane to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where it was discovered by authorities late early on Friday. A second, similar package turned up in England's East Midlands Airport.
Barack Obama's counter-terrorism adviser said the parcel bombs had been made by the same person as the device worn by the so-called "underpants bomber" who botched an attack over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
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A package shipped from Yemen and bound for the United States on a cargo jet that was intercepted in Britain on Friday contained an explosive device powerful enough to bring down the plane, British authorities said on Saturday.
“I can confirm the device was viable and could have exploded,” British Home Secretary Theresa May said. “The target may have been an aircraft and had it detonated the aircraft could have been brought down.”
A day after two packages containing explosives addressed to synagogues in Chicago were discovered, one in Britain and the other in Dubai, setting off a broad terror alert, Janet Napolitano, the secretary of Homeland Security, said that the plot “has the hallmarks of Al Qaeda.” Officials on three continents, meanwhile, continued to search for other potentially dangerous packages shipped from Yemen.
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An apparent plot to send two explosive-laden packages by cargo plane from Yemen to the US has focused new attention on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The network was formed in January 2009 by a merger between two regional offshoots of the international Islamist militant network in neighbouring Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The US president's counterterrorism adviser John Brennan has called it: "the most active operational franchise" of al-Qaeda beyond Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Led by a former aide to Osama Bin Laden, the group has vowed to attack oil facilities, foreigners and security forces as it seeks to topple the Saudi monarchy and Yemeni government, and establish an Islamic caliphate.
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Two packages containing explosive devices originating in Yemen and bound for two places of Jewish worship in Chicago set off a global terror alert on Friday. One package was found at a FedEx facility in Dubai, and another was found early Friday morning at an airport in Britain, sparking a day of dramatic precautionary activity in the United States.
Speaking at the White House Friday afternoon, President Obama called the packages a “credible terrorist threat against our country,” and confirmed that they “did apparently contain” explosives. Earlier reports had said that the device found in Britain did not.
The wide-scale alert spread to the United States on Friday morning, when officials isolated two cargo planes at airports in Newark and Philadelphia and searched them for packages originating in Yemen, and New York police searched a delivery truck in Brooklyn. None of the shipments reaching the United States from Yemen were found to contain explosives.
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Filed under: * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Politics in General Office of the President President Barack Obama Terrorism * International News & Commentary Asia Yemen England / UK Middle East Saudi Arabia
[Today]...is the tenth anniversary of the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. On Oct. 12, 2000, the Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer pulled into the Port of Aden, in Yemen.
As it refueled, two al-Qaida recruits approached the vessel in a small boat that was loaded with explosives. They blew a 40-foot-wide hole in the side of the ship, killed 17 Americans, and wounded dozens more.
Take the time to listen to what happened from people who were there at the time--radio at its best--KSH (Hat tip:Elizabeth)
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia Yemen
"What we're facing here is not an episodic series of terrorist events. What we're facing is a group of people who see themselves as revolutionaries," Phillip Mudd said.
Until he retired a few months ago, Mudd was the senior intelligence advisor to the FBI and its director. He is an authority on homegrown terrorism and believes the recent activity has been poorly organized and executed by lone wolfs or clusters of individuals who aren't part of an organized network or a terrorist cell. Instead, they see themselves as part of global movement that is being facilitated by the Internet.
"The Internet often is not the initial spark, but it helps them go down a path," he explained.
Asked what they are seeing on the web, Mudd said, "They're seeing images, for example, of children and women in places like Palestine and Iraq, they're seeing sermons of people who explain in simple, compelling, and some cases magnetic terms why it's important that they join the jihad. They're seeing images, and messages that confirm a path that they're already thinking of taking."
And according to Mudd, they are seeing all of this in English.
Read or better yet watch it all via video.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia Pakistan Yemen * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
An American-born imam has emerged as a key figure in the story of the Christmas Day bombing suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The Muslim cleric's name is Anwar al-Awlaki.
He has admitted to knowing Abdulmutallab, but the relationship is much deeper, intelligence officials say. They suspect he may have directed Abdulmutallab to Yemen for training by al-Qaida operatives before the young Nigerian tried to bring down a Detroit-bound trans-Atlantic airliner on Dec. 25.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia Yemen England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
Following the defeat of Egypt and other Arab armies by Israel in the 1967 war, Nasserism, a k a Arab nationalism, the abiding ideology of the day, was demolished. In its wake came two broad alternatives: The first, manifested by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in his 1977 trip to Israel, was a bid to cast the Arab world’s future with the West, economic liberalization, modernization and acceptance of Israel. The weakness of “Sadatism,” though, was that it was an elite ideology with no cultural roots. The Egyptian state made peace with Israel, but Arab societies never followed.
The second Arab-Muslim response emerged in 1979. To start, there was the takeover that year of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamist extremists who challenged the religious credentials of the Saudi ruling family. The Saudi rulers responded by forging a new bargain with their Islamists: Let us stay in power and we will give you a free hand in setting social norms, relations between the sexes and religious education inside Saudi Arabia — and abundant resources to spread Sunni Wahabi fundamentalism abroad.
The Saudi lurch backward coincided with Iran’s revolution in 1979, which brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. That revolution set up a competition between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia for who was the real leader of the Muslim world, and it triggered a surge in oil prices that gave both fundamentalist regimes the resources to export their brands of puritanical Islam, through mosques and schools, farther than ever.
“Islam lost its brakes in 1979,” said Mamoun Fandy, a Middle East expert at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London. And there was no moderate countertrend.
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Al Qaeda is like a virus. When it appears en masse, it indicates something is wrong with a country’s immune system. And something is wrong with Yemen’s. A weak central government in Sana rules over a patchwork of rural tribes, using an ad hoc system of patronage, co-optation, corruption and force. Vast areas of the countryside remain outside government control, particularly in the south and east, where 300 to 500 Qaeda fighters have found sanctuary. This “Yemeni Way” has managed to hold the country together and glacially nudge it forward, despite separatist movements in the North and the South. But that old way and pace of doing things can no longer keep pace with the negative trends.
Consider a few numbers: Yemen’s population growth rate is close to 3.5 percent, one of the highest in the world, with 50 percent of Yemen’s 23 million people under the age of 15 and 75 percent under 29. Unemployment is 35 to 40 percent, in part because Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states booted out a million Yemeni workers after Yemen backed Saddam Hussein in the 1990 gulf war.
Thanks to bad planning and population growth, Yemen could be the first country to run out of water in 10 to 15 years. Already many Yemenis experience interrupted water service, like electricity blackouts, which they also have constantly. In the countryside today, women sometimes walk up to four hours a day to find a working well. The water table has fallen so low in Sana that you need oil-drilling equipment to find it. This isn’t helped by the Yemeni tradition of chewing qat, a mild hallucinogenic leaf drug, the cultivation of which consumes 40 percent of Yemen’s water supply each year.
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This remote desert valley, with its towering bluffs and ancient mud-brick houses, is probably best known to outsiders as the birthplace of Osama bin Laden's father. Most accounts about Yemen in the Western news media refer ominously to it as "the ancestral homeland" of the leader of Al Qaeda, as though his murderous ideology had somehow been shaped here.
But in fact, Tarim and its environs are a historic center of Sufism, a mystical strand within Islam. The local religious school, Dar al-Mustafa, is a multicultural place full of students from Indonesia and California who stroll around its tiny campus wearing white skullcaps and colorful shawls.
"The reality is that Osama bin Laden has never been to Yemen," said Habib Omar, the revered director of Dar al-Mustafa, as he sat on the floor in his home eating dinner with a group of students. "His thinking has nothing to do with this place."
Lately, Al Qaeda has found a new sanctuary here and carried out a number of attacks. But the group's inspiration, Mr. Omar said, did not originate here. Most of the group's adherents have lived in Saudi Arabia -- as has Mr. bin Laden -- and it was there, or in Afghanistan or Pakistan, that they adopted a jihadist mind-set.
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