Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continued to exercise control over the southern Yemen province of Abyan one week after AQAP fighters seized the presidential palace and declared the province an "Islamic Emirate".
The announcement came two days after AQAP fighters took over security headquarters, local authority offices and a munitions factory. They reportedly made off with weapons as well as armoured and other military vehicles. An attempt by local residents to scavenge the munitions factory the next day resulted in an explosion that killed 150 people and injured dozens.
Yemen's Ministry of Interior blamed al-Qaeda for the factory incident on grounds that its militants attacked the factory after the army vacated it.
Abyan province under-secretary, Ahmed Ghaleb Al-Rahwi, told Al-Shorfa, "A group of militants referring to themselves as Mujahidin, comprised of al-Qaeda militants from Lawder and Modia and a number of extremist residents, continue to tighten their grip over the town of Jaar, imposing their own tax system and collecting fees that under normal circumstances are paid to local councils by residents and shopkeepers."
AQAP released "Communiqué Number 1" on March 29th announcing Abyan province an "Islamic Emirate" and banning women from venturing out into the streets except to meet urgent needs.
"Women who go out to the markets for necessities must be accompanied by a relative and must carry proof of identity in the form of personal or family identification, or passport, and the like," the communiqué said.
Al-Rahwi denied media reports that al-Qaeda's Islamic emirate communiqué was broadcast on Abyan's radio station, saying that the announcement was made via pamphlets and loudspeakers in the streets of the city.
Saleh Al-Hanashi, Abyan radio Director, told Al-Shorfa, "The radio station has been off the air since the terrorist attack", adding "that al-Qaeda elements continue to occupy the station after they broke down its door and seized control of it".
"The staff of 22 people are in their homes and are not allowed to come near the radio station," he said, stressing that "it is still off the air and no communiqués have been broadcast from it."
According to the official news agency Saba, the Governor of Abyan agreed to a mediation effort with AQAP led by number of elders and religious leaders, in a bid to return the military vehicles and heavy weapons that have been looted.
Al-Rahwi said that popular committees comprised of a number of elders and dignitaries have been formed to return the military equipment and avert a military intervention by the government, "but nothing has come of it," he told Al-Shorfa.
Popular Committees were formed in most regions of the Republic in response to a demand made by the opposition weeks ago, "to maintain security, protect public and private property, and supplant government agencies upon the fall of the regime".
In a statement made last week, the Joint Meeting Parties coalition blamed the presence of extremists in Abyan, including al-Qaeda members, on President Saleh.
"We hold the President and his entourage fully responsible for the complicity that transpired by way of handing over state institutions and military vehicles to al-Qaeda and armed groups in the province of Abyan," the statement said, accusing the authorities of plotting the al-Qaeda takeover.
Sultan al-Atwani, member of the Supreme Council of the Joint Meeting Parties coalition, told Al-Shorfa, "I think the regime uses al-Qaeda as a card that it exploits for its own purposes in persuading the West that only the regime is capable of combating al-Qaeda, and that its fall would increase al-Qaeda's influence."
"After the fall of the regime, it will become apparently clear how al-Qaeda and the exaggeration of its role and size was used as a card by the regime to pressure the west", he said.
Meanwhile, during a Sunday (April 3rd) meeting chaired by Yemeni President Abdullah Saleh, the Supreme Council for the National Democratic Alliance (the ruling Congress party and its allies), held the Joint Meeting Parties and their partners responsible for what happened in Abyan.
In a statement published by Saba, the Supreme Council accused opposition parties of inciting terrorist elements allied with them to "carry out sabotage and terrorist and unlawful acts to undermine security and ferment chaos to stage a coup against the Constitution and take over power ".
Sultan al-Burkani, Assistant Secretary-General of the ruling Congress party and the head of its parliamentary bloc, told Al-Shorfa, "The only beneficiary of disorder and the current situation is al-Qaeda, and what happened over the past few days in Abyan as demonstrated by its declaration of an Islamic emirate, is a clear example of the chaos and lawlessness that prevail in some areas."