Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yemen Islamists tighten grip on southern cities

Islamic militants have consolidated their hold over a southern city in Yemen, forcing merchants to lower food prices and helping residents who want to flee shelling by government forces outside the city, residents said Monday.

In contrast, militants in control of another nearby city are enforcing a stringent version of Islamic rule, forcing women to stay home and trying to recruit young men to their ranks, according to residents there.

Government forces do not appear to have the will to fight the Islamists, raising fears that al-Qaida's most dangerous wing is making significant gains as the weakened regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh unravels in the face of an array of opponents.

So far, government troops and warplanes have only been shelling the two cities, Zinjibar and Jaar, in southern Abyan province, often missing their targets and hitting residential areas instead.

The recent advances made by the militants in the nearly lawless south are a clear attempt to exploit the power vacuum and turmoil caused by a popular uprising against Saleh that began in February. It gained momentum when a coterie of the president's close aides, military commanders and Cabinet ministers joined the protesters. (read m0re)