The Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen supports al-Qaeda against the army

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Yemeni soldiers brandish their weapons as they take part in an offensive against extremists in the southern province of Shabwa, on May 7, 2014. (Photo: AFP/STR)

By: Jamal Jubran

Published Saturday, May 17, 2014

Despite the overwhelming public support for the army campaign against al-Qaeda controlled areas in Yemen, groups affiliated to the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood are opposed to these operations and are, instead, calling for disarming all parties, particularly the Houthis.

Sanaa: Two weeks after stepping up a military campaign against al-Qaeda insurgents in southern Yemen, public support for the army is still strong. However, certain Islamist parties are opposing these operations under various pretexts and aren’t even hiding their sympathy with extremists.

The current clashes between the army and al-Qaeda seem different from previous confrontations; today the army is seriously seeking to make this battle the last one.

Since the Yemeni army still appears divided, military commanders loyal to interim President Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi are restricting the participation in the current campaign to credible army staffs that are committed to “ousting jihadis from all Yemeni territories.”

For the first time ever, Yemenis feel that their army “is waging a real war for their sake.” Today, it is not surprising to hear that military chiefs in charge of the battles in the southern regions of Shabwah are becoming local heroes.

This drastic shift in the way Yemenis view their army arises from their belief that the military puts the “country’s best interests,” as a top priority.

Previously, the army was divided between officers loyal to former President Ali Abdallah Saleh and others affiliated to Major General Ali al-Ahmar. Both launched vendetta wars against one another, and used al-Qaeda to pressure international donors.

Despite public support, some parties are opposing the military campaign, which is seeking to eradicate al-Qaeda. Major General Ali al-Ahmar, who had previously joined the revolution against Abdullah Saleh, today became a fierce opponent of Mansour Hadi, standing against decisions affecting the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (al-Islah party) - the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ahmar’s ties with the Islamist party are ideological and date back to the days of Islamic jihad in Afghanistan, when Yemeni youth were enrolled to fight against communism.

A media campaign has been launched against the army operation, and newspapers affiliated to al-Ahmar, such as Akhbar al-Yawm, have been publishing daily reports slamming the “wrong timing” of the army’s actions, amid what they called a “deteriorating economic situation,” and warning from an “economic abyss.”

Al-Islah also warned of the “gravity of current confrontations between the army and al-Qaeda,” through their media outlets and through prominent figures influencing the poor, such as radical cleric Abel Majid al-Zandani, head of al-Iman school, where a number of individuals involved in suicide bombings were enrolled.

It has been reported that al-Zanadani suggested establishing an advisory committee similar to the religious authority (the police of vice and virtue) in Saudi Arabia. The committee would advise the interim president about the “risks of the war against al-Qaeda” and about the necessity to “hold a dialogue with insurgents and to call them to surrender their arms.” In a statement last week, prominent Wahabi cleric, Abdel Wahab al-Daylami called the timing of the army campaign against al-Qaeda “absurd,” warning that it might further harm the already deteriorating economy.

Prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Yemen also commented on the military campaign, but opted to speak their minds as independents in order to relieve pressures on al-Islah. They called to “treat all armed groups equally,” in reference to Houthis in northern parts of the country. This reflected the divergence between Houthis and al-Islah, supported by General al-Ahmar. In fact, it was widely reported that Ahmar and al-Islah stood behind recent battles in Saada between Houthis and salafi groups.

Meanwhile, tension escalated between army forces and local tribes in Maarab, eastern Sanaa, following the assassination of Sheikh al-Shabwani, a prominent Maarab cleric. The incident that took place near the presidential palace in the capital last week, resulted from a wrong piece of information suggesting that the cleric was an al-Qaeda leader.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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