Yemen's fight against resurgent Al Qaeda
The government is backing a feature film to warn young Yemenis against radical jihad.
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Hamza al-Quyati, born to a Yemeni family in Saudi Arabia, was among those killed in Hadramaut. The defense ministry claims Mr. Quyati was responsible for a misfired mortar strike on the US Embassy in March, which hit a girls' school next door by mistake, and a suicide bombing that killed eight Spanish tourists and two Yemeni drivers in July 2007.Skip to next paragraph
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"Al Quyati was a spokesman for Yemen's new generation, who reject the tacit nonaggression pact between older members of Al Qaeda and the government," says Princeton analyst Gregory Johnsen, referring to "covenant-of-security" deals struck with Yemeni mujahideen fighters who returned home after Afghanistan's war against the Soviet Union.
The Yemeni regime has become a target for this generation of Al Qaeda, adds Mr. Johnsen. “The alleged torture and humiliation of captive Al Qaeda members is a constant sore point.”
Quyati headed an active splinter cell, the Soldiers’ Brigades of Yemen, which encouraged new recruits to shift the focus of their hostility. In July, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a police station in Hadramaut. In a statement issued on Aug. 23, the Soldier’s Brigade of Yemen pledged to continue attacks against security and intelligence structures.
The recent uptick in terrorist activity has prevented efforts to successfully diversify Yemen's fragile economy, which is heavily dependent on dwindling oil supplies. Tourism faltered after last July's car bomb and a January attack that left two Belgians and two Yemenis dead.
"Young people realize that extremists are damaging inward investment and job creation," says Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, Yemen's foreign minister.
"The Losing Bet" was conceived to appeal to young men who are struggling to find jobs in a country where unemployment runs at 40 percent, according to producer Dr. Olfi. In a pivotal scene that begins the process of radicalization, a devout jihadi wearing a long beard and white robes pays off the debts of three idle youths. The trio quickly succumb to his charisma.
"We can identify with the characters," say students Watthur and Hassan in unison. "The story is authentic. It really expresses the problems we're facing."
• Research for this article was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.