Frontline Special Report —AL Qaeda in Yemen

Release Date: 05/29/2012

Frontline Special Report —AL Qaeda in Yemen
A Look at the Growing Presence of Al Qaeda in Yemen and the New War on Terrorism
 
Since the death of Osama bin Laden, Yemen has become the hottest front in the war against Al Qaeda. Now, with headlines about an alleged terrorist plot to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner and a suicide bomber killing about 100 soldiers in the capital, Sana, President Obama has expressed concern about Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
 
In Frontline special report, "Al Qaeda in Yemen," airing Tuesday, May 29, 2012, at 10 p.m. on Connecticut Public Television (CPTV), "Guardian" journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, reporting for Frontline, travels deep into Yemen's radical heartland to look at how members of Al Qaeda, describing themselves as the group Ansar al-Sharia, have seized control of cities and towns and are winning support among some in the local population—and recruiting militants—by administering scarce resources. 
 
"For the first time in my experience, we see Al Qaeda actually trying to hold territory, and this is a departure from anything that we had seen before," U.S. ambassador Gerald M. Feierstein tells Frontline. "The fact of the matter is that they continue to try to find ways to attack not only here in Yemen, but in the United States, in the neighborhood against Saudi Arabia, against Western Europe and the U.K. So they have global aspirations, and we consider that they still present a very significant challenge."
 
For the man who runs Yemen's counterterrorism forces, targeted in the recent suicide attack, Gen. Yahya Saleh —nephew of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh—the threat posed by Al Qaeda in Yemen is very real. "Al Qaeda today is not the same as Al Qaeda a year and a half ago. They have more followers, more money, more guns; the area they control is bigger, and this is a great danger."
 
Yet internal power struggles within the Yemeni government and the army have created space in which Al Qaeda can operate. Instead of using their resources to fight Al Qaeda, politicians loyal to deposed president Ali Saleh are battling his opponents and those who support his successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. 
 
Before his death, Osama bin Laden warned Al Qaeda in Yemen that the main threat to their survival was not U.S. drone attacks, not the Yemeni army, but antagonizing Yemen's tribes. Abdul-Ahad travels to the town of Lawdar, where he discovers that Al Qaeda had been driven from power by local residents after assassinating a tribal leader.
 
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