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Attack in Yemen: Is Al Qaeda stronger now? (+video)

Yemenis are hopeful that Yemen's new president will be more effective at reining in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula than his predecessor.

By Correspondent / April 9, 2012

Policemen sit in the back of a police pick-up outside Sanaa International Airport, after the airport was reopened, April 8.

Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

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Sanaa, Yemen

Yemen’s political crisis may be slowly moving into the rear-view mirror, but the threat of terrorism appears to be growing.

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Militants said to be linked with Al Qaeda attacked a Yemeni Army post in the southern governorate of Abyan today, resulting in clashes that left 44 dead, according to the Associated Press.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by many in Washington to pose more of a threat than the group once headed by Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, has taken advantage of the past year of instability in Yemen to strengthen its control. Many in the West hope things will improve now that Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has taken over the presidency from Ali Abdullah Saleh after a year-long uprising against his rule.

Among Yemenis, there is some optimism that President Hadi will manage to more effectively deal with AQAP than his predecessor, who many analysts say lacked a clear plan to combat the group.

“Yemen doesn’t have a strategy to work against Al Qaeda because of the weakness of the state, which has existed for a long time, since well before the uprising,” says Saeed Ali Al-Jemhi, author of Al-Qaeda in Yemen. “When there is no serious and clear strategy to deal with Al Qaeda, the end point is that Al Qaeda will not be stopped.”

Moments after being sworn in as president in February, Hadi pledged to combat terrorism, saying it was Yemenis’ “patriotic and religious duty” to do so. A former general, Hadi also has the endorsement of the US and other Western nations who will now be watching for those strong statements to turn into action.

Will the public support Al Qaeda?

As a country with relatively small oil reserves and limited resources, Yemen remains on the international radar largely because of Al Qaeda’s presence there. Almost a year before the Sept. 11 attacks, Yemen had already surfaced as a terrorist hotbed following the bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors and injured 39.

In recent years, AQAP has also taken strong root in Yemen. The group benefited substantially from the instability over the past year as the government focused on demonstrations calling for the removal of Mr. Saleh.

Even prior to the uprising, many Yemenis doubted whether Saleh ever took the Al Qaeda threat seriously, choosing to instead see it as a tool to gain increased international attention, aid, and military support.

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