A recently issued fatwa that criminalises terrorist acts will serve as extra motivation for residents in southern Yemen to confront al-Qaeda and support the army's campaign to eliminate the organisation, researchers and officials say.
The fatwa, issued by the Aden preachers and scholars association on May 25th, prohibits and criminalises terrorism and other illegitimate acts, saying they harm religion and undermine security, stability, social peace and religious and national interests.
The association also condemned the May 21st attack on members of the armed forces in Sanaa's Sabeen Square, which left 96 dead and around 300 wounded.
"Whoever intentionally kills a believer, his recompense shall be hell, to abide eternally therein, and Allah shall cast his wrath upon him, and damn him, and shall prepare great torment for him," the association quoted a verse from the Qur'an as saying.
The fatwa said acts not sanctioned by sharia law, reason or the public interest are heinous acts that serve the country's enemies at a time when the nation is about to conduct a national dialogue and introduce comprehensive reforms.
Col. Mohammed al-Qaidi, spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior, told Al-Shorfa the fatwa will provide motivation for residents in Abyan and other areas affected by al-Qaeda to support the army in its campaign against terrorism.
"The fatwa is important because it will spur passive citizens to join the popular [resistance] committees, which have proven effective," he said. "Lawder is a clear example of that and [the fatwa will also move citizens] to support the army in any capacity."
Al-Qaidi said the public's rejection of Ansar al-Sharia will put pressure on the organisation and tighten the noose around it.
The Yemeni army launched a campaign on May 12th to cleanse al-Qaeda from the country's southern region.
On Wednesday (May 30th), the army entered the outskirts of Jaar after taking control of Lawder.
The army also had successes in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, in late May, seizing several sites the terrorist organisation had controlled, capturing weapons and military vehicles belonging to al-Qaeda and killing dozens of its members, the Defence Ministry said on its website.
Mohammed Azzan, a researcher specialising in al-Qaeda and Islamist groups, said the fatwa focuses on two themes.
"The first is to influence young people to eschew criminal and terrorist acts and to make people understand that the perpetrators of such acts are neither martyrs nor jihadists for Allah's cause, but that their fate will be to spend an eternity in hell," Azzan said.
"The second will spur the population in areas where al-Qaeda has a presence to support the army in its defence of citizens against the evil of these groups, which take lives and spill blood unjustly in the name of religion," he said.
Abdullah Sabri, a researcher specialising in Islamist groups, said the attack on the soldiers in Sabeen Square will serve as a compelling motivation for the government to fight terrorism more vigorously.
Sabri said the scholars' support of the army is "due and expected" and will help the army destroy al-Qaeda's hideouts in Abyan.
He called on Yemen's security agencies to guard against more suicide attacks by al-Qaeda, saying the army's full capacity must be devoted to the war on terrorism to maintain Yemen's security.