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Who will be next to die in fascinating Yemen?

By       Message Mohamed Al-Azaki     Permalink
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Who will be next to die in fascinating Yemen?

By Mohamed Al-Azaki *

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Friday, August 03, 2007

MARIB, Yemen – "After the Spaniards, who will be next to die in this vibrant, living 'museum' as Yemenis call their country?," a group of Italian tourists said as leaving Yemen after the horrible attack.

It is a ghoulish, dreadful question after the al-Qaeda car bomb attack detonated near the sun temple archeological site in Marib province, some 150 km east of the capital Sana'a, killing eight Spanish tourists and two Yemenis on last July 2.

The security investigations are already underway, and the offer of a 76,000 dollars reward by President Ali Abdullah Saleh for any information about those responsible for the attack is still valid.

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Exactly one month after the attack, Yemen's Interior Ministry on the 2 August published photographs of 10 men it said were involved in the terrorist attack.

The photographs of the suspects appeared on the military newspaper '26 September', reporting that the Interior Ministry identified the bomber as Abdo Saad Rahiqa, who carried out the deadly attack at the tourist site with the help of seven Yemeni terrorists including one of Saudi Arabia and an Egyptian national.

"It was almost a revenge story for the killing of their senior al-Qaeda operative, Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harthi - a suspect in the USS Cole bombing that his car was attacked in Marib by a Hellfire missile launched from an unmanned Predator drone in May 2002," says a security official in Marib, who declined to provide any further details because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Yemen's oil and gas industry, the source of two thirds of Yemen's GDP, but tiny by global standards, has been attacked in the near past.

Last September, al-Qaeda affiliates were blamed for two attacks on Western-run oil refineries. One refinery at Safer in Marib, and the other is in Athubah in Hadhramout, east of the country.

An al-Qaeda message at the time warned that these attacks were "only the first spark" and that future operations would be "severe and bitter". Now it attacks tourism industry, the second arm of national economy and the source of third of Yemen's GDP.

"Al-Qaeda group always vows to turn Yemen into a "quagmire" for the West and US in particular due to the Yemen's alliance with the US-led war on terrorism that targeted Islam as they (al-Qaeda) see it," says Abdul-Elah Shayiee, Yemeni specialist in terrorism affaires.

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So could Yemen follow on the heels of Afghanistan and Iraq as the third major venue in the war on terrorism? Al-Qaeda probably seems to gear up for conflict in this area.

Thirty six suspects are on trial in the capital Sana'a, accused of forming an organization calling itself al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula-Yemen.

But this swathe of ancient Arabia - a wonderful mix of green mountains and deserts and cloud-high villages where time stands still- is a museum where tourists are escorted by soldiers dressed in white robes, combat jackets and chequered head cloths, who demand tourists to give them money for buying qat - "hag-al-qat" in Yemeni accent -, a narcotic plant which its leaves are chewed by the majority of Yemeni adults near the end of every day across Yemen.

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Mohamed Al-Azaki, a Yemeni journalist and researcher on Islamic militants at the Saba Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Sana'a, Yemen.

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