(Reuters) - An airstrike in Yemen targeting al Qaeda missed its mark on Tuesday and killed a mediator by mistake, prompting members of his tribe to blow up a crude oil pipeline in clashes that followed, a provincial official said.
Following are some analytical comments on the incident.
SHADI HAMID, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, BROOKINGS DOHA Centre
“Many of the tribes have become increasingly hostile to the Saleh government, and AQAP (al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) have done a better job than some AQ affiliates elsewhere in making inroads into the local population. There is more of a indigenous character to the group, more of a Yemeni character. So it would not be surprising if this incident feeds into more latent support for AQAP. There is already significant sympathy, not necessarily for AQAP, but for this kind of anti-government sentiment, whether it’s a response to economic challenges, the war with the Houthis, or a response to AQAP. It wouldn’t be surprising if this incident builds on that and fuels tensions between the government and the tribes.
“If it turns out to be a drone, that would have a different set of implications. It’s no secret that drones have been a major driver of anti-U.S. sentiment in places like Pakistan and also in Yemen. An incident like this could raise questions about the U.S. cooperation with Yemen and whether the U.S. is going about this effort in the right away, and to what extent this administration has adopted the policies and methods of the Bush administration.”
MUSTAFA ALANI, GULF RESEARCH CENTRE
“Apparently there was no coordination between the Yemenis and the Americans. We had two (internal) reports this morning saying it was a pilotless drone aircraft that carried out the attack. They attacked the house in Wadi Obeida where the meeting took place.”
“I don’t see the Yemeni government authorising such a strike as it is the government that was trying to support al-Shabwani’s effort to mediate the surrender of the al Qaeda member, Mohammed Jaid bin Jardan. Shabwani is important as a man with the family connections who could mediate in order to bring such men in.”
ANNA MURISON, EXCLUSIVE ANALYSIS
“Attacking the pipeline has happened before but there are some elements to this that are new. The tribal forces later attacked one of the government buildings in Maarib. They tried to take over a military base. They did not manage that, but it does show the level of response. It shows tribal fighters may decide to go after oil sector fixed assets, possibly refineries or oil services like oil service helicopters.
“There are reports that the Yemenis have brought in tanks.
“It does not matter whether it was Yemen or the U.S. who did the attack. A lot of people will believe it was the Americans who did it.”
“The fact that the Yemeni government has not made a statement about what happened will tend to make people even more angry and suspicious about this incident. Longer term AQAP’s interests do not coincide with those of the tribes. But the government’s messaging is terrible. AQAP is trying very hard to engage the population, not only by the material they put out online but also via mobile phone among the population.
JEREMY BINNIE, IHS JANE’S INTELLIGENCE
“I am sure the jihadis will use this attack to build an argument that Yemen is occupied and the government is a U.S. agent, to justify their actions against the state.
“Since the December (Christmas Day) airliner incident the U.S. has raised pressure again on the government for action and the government has felt the need to be seen to be going after AQAP. But the more the authorities go after the AQAP in this way the more the tribes will side with the militants.”
Reporting by William Maclean, Editing by Samia Nakhoul
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