AQAP is not known to have direct links with southern secessionists, though the two movements share grievances against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government.
But the southern secessionist movement, which became more violent a year ago, puts a significant drain on government attention and resources.
As the Monitor explained in a briefing early this year, the secessionists “seek to reverse the 1990 unification that absorbed the communist south, retain socialist views that are anathema to the militant ideology of Al Qaeda.”
They accuse the central government of diverting economic resources and depriving them of proportional representation in the Saleh regime.
Now government forces also face an intensified fight with suspected AQAP militants in the southern province of Abyan, one of three provinces considered Al Qaeda strongholds – along with Shabwa and Marib.