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Since the Christmas Day plot in Detroit, there has been a strong focus on Al Qaeda activities in Yemen. Reports of safe havens and training camps have led many to believe that Al Qaeda members, hounded out of Afghanistan and much of Pakistan, have sought refuge in an ungoverned area of the Middle Eastern nation, using the name Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Essential though this focus may be, the global nature of the fight means that concentrating efforts in one place means neglecting enemy forces gathered in another. This is exactly the case with another branch of Al Qaeda in North Africa – one which has gone largely unnoticed and whose increased capacity to attack presents a real threat to security in Europe and the U.S.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb emerged in the early nineties, and was originally called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). The group was formed as an angry response to the Algerian government’s cancellation of the 1992 elections that would have handed victory to a coalition of Islamic moderates and militants. GSPC operated in a largely ungoverned area of the Sahara desert, along Algeria’s southern and Mali’s northern border, and launched attacks on Algerian government employees and institutions. The group then began to receive funding and training from Al Qaeda towards the end of the decade, and the alliance was made official in 2006 when Al Qaeda’s no. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, announced the “blessed union” in a video published on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Since then, the group has been known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and has claimed responsibility for its actions under its new name.

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For his first presidential act upon taking office on Jan. 20 last year, President Obama signed an executive order requiring the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within a year. Many liberals and human rights activists breathed a sigh of relief as Obama promised to return the U.S. to the “moral high ground” and put an end to a shameful chapter in modern American history. One year later and that high ground appears beyond the reach of the Obama administration, as Guantanamo Bay prison remains open with the White House lacking a comprehensive plan to deal with its estimated 245 detainees.  

Obama’s laudable plan to close the prison has stalled for various reasons, some of which are beyond his control. The first reason relates to his attempts to re-house some of the prisoners on American soil. Local senators and governors have fiercely objected to the notion that their state should house suspected terrorists on the grounds that the new prisoners could endanger the safety of Americans. This nonsensical affirmation has been echoed by other partisan commentators and TV networks, despite the fact that the U.S. already houses many convicted al-Qaeda terrorists, as well as various other dangerous criminals. 

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On 15 October 2007, a protest was held outside UN headquarters in New York. A group organized by local New Yorkers originating from South Yemen had come to protest the end of occupation of South Yemen. One of the underlining issues of this protest stems from the direct threats made by the President of Yemen- Ali Abdallah Saleh(who is positioned and hails from the north) against southern Yemenites who decided to stage peaceful sit-ins on the 14th of October in South Yemen. Ali Saleh’s regime has been accused of various crimes against southern Yemeni citizens. These include: unjust land confiscation of land belonging to south Yemenis, also half a million south Yemenis have been unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of work either through halting them at their homes or through illegal early retirement. Furthermore, their salaries and pensions are subject to regular suspension, deduction and repeated extortion.

Complaints made to the government have fallen on deaf ears. Hence, Southern Yemenis have submitted various memorandums to the international community including the General Assembly, and the European Union asking them to intervene and help end the occupation of South Yemen.

The leading organization heading this appeal is the Southern Democratic Assembly or “TAJ”, which had also helped form various other organizations including: the Association for the Ousted Military, Security and Civilian Officers and Employees, Youth and Unemployed Association, Owners of Confiscated Lands’ Association, Academics Association and Revolutionaries among others. “TAJ” has now warned Sana’a ‘s authorities that their threats will not deter ongoing
protests and demonstrations and it will continue to demand their human rights despite several casualties and violence perpetrated by Saleh’s regime. “TAJ” has also made appeals to various NGOs and foreign embassies to witness and
reveal the atrocities committed by the government and pressure the existing regime to stop the violations and discrimination.

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