Yemen's Jihadis Raise Their Game With Embassy Attacks

"There is some anti-American sentiment among the Yemeni people. Some are religiously misled, manipulated for their sympathy and support. Some people think the extremists are right, especially in tribal areas," said Al-Qadhi, the Yemeni analyst.

But he said even that element has shown resistance to the militants' attacks as they have involved more and more local casualties.

"With the USS Cole attack some people were happy, because it was against a U.S. military target," Al-Qadhi said. "Now they see extremists are just hurting civilians."

A Struggle With Extremism

Along with an ideological fringe that embraces violent Islam, a porous border with Saudi Arabia and pockets of limited government control have complicated joint U.S.-Yemeni efforts in the war on terror.

The partnership, which intensified after the Cole bombing and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has had its problems.

Tension remains over Washington's effort to extradite Jamal al-Badawi, a convicted mastermind of the Cole bombing, who escaped from a Yemeni prison after serving part of a 15-year sentence. Washington has long pushed Yemen to hand over al-Badawi and other terror suspects, while Yemen maintains its constitution prevents the extradition of its nationals.

But after the blast today, U.S. officials expressed praise for Yemen's leaders, crediting their guards with stopping the attack at the embassy gate.

"Fast action by embassy security personnel and host nation embassy forces ... were vital in limiting the harm to embassy employees and to the public," Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said.

The embassy in Sana'a stressed it would work with Yemeni officials to investigate the bombing and prosecute the attackers.

As part of its struggle to control extremist violence, the Yemeni government is launching de-radicalization and anti-corruption programs. Increasingly, there are calls for Yemen's wealthy neighbors to help with the country's development and security.

"Gulf countries should look at this seriously. They should support the Yemeni troops, police and government. Their troops need to be better trained and funded," said Sultan Al Qassimi, a columnist and commentator in the United Arab Emirates.

"Its strategic location makes its political instability very relevant for the security of the Arabian Peninsula. ... Yemen may not collapse tomorrow, but it is certainly moving in that direction," wrote Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy. "The last thing that region needs is a Somalia-type scenario developing just south of the border from a major oil producer like Saudi Arabia."

'Holy War' Defies Holy Month

The terrorists who carried out the attack struck during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Muslim calendar and a time when believers are moved toward acts of charity and reconciliation.

"These people don't respect Ramadan," Al Qadhi said. "If they had, they wouldn't have attacked Yemeni soldiers."

"It is ironic. This is the month where you abstain from any act of violence. Even if you disagree with someone you extend your hand. ... The fact that they'd do such an attack shows that they're not in touch with the rest of the country," said Al Qassimi of militant groups like Islamic Jihad.

"They claim to be Islamic. Obviously they're not."

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