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Al-Qaeda benefits from unsettled Yemen politics

Yemen’s Gulf Initiative, which gave President Ali Abdullah Saleh and many of his officers immunity in exchange for stepping down, has been followed by a rise in extremism.
A mourner sits during the funeral of assassinated Shi'ite leader Ahmad Sharafeddin in Sanaa January 27, 2014. Unknown assailants shot and killed Sharafeddin on January 21 while he was on his way to attend reconciliation talks in the Yemeni capital, officials at the talks said. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah (YEMEN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST RELIGION OBITUARY) - RTX17WSB
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The armed conflict in Yemen pitting armed Houthi groups against al-Qaeda-supported Salafists reached the outskirts of Sanaa during the last two weeks. This ominous development can be traced back to the 2011 power transition initiative promoted by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and supported by the international community, and the sense of injustice it created among some Yemenis. The recent naming by the US Treasury Department of the Salafist Rashad Party Secretary-General Abdulwahab Humayqani as a specially designated global terrorist has only exacerbated the situation.

On Nov. 25, 2011, when Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and representatives of the opposition signed the Gulf Initiative for transfer of power in Yemen, opposition activist Abdel-Moneim Abu Ghanem and dozens of his comrades packed up their tents at Sanaa's Change Square, which for months had been the site of a sit-in demanding regime change. The young men did not go home and celebrate Saleh's departure; rather, they traveled to Abyan province to join Ansar al-Sharia, a branch of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Abu Ghanem told Al-Monitor that he joined al-Qaeda to seek justice for fallen comrades, unarmed activists who had been shot by Salah’s forces — justice that was precluded by the immunity from prosecution granted Saleh by the Initiative.

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