Yemeni officials were making much of the fall of the town of Zinjibar, a relatively anonymous town of about 20,000 people. This may soon be the least of their problems, however, with the prospect of them losing control over Aden, a major port city of nearly a million people.
Yemen’s government reports that it foiled an al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) plot in the city, aimed at targeting major buildings. At the same time, reports have the city virtually surrounded by assorted gangs, some linked to AQAP and others linked to the Ansar al-Sharia, the faction which still controls Zinjibar and the surrounding area.
The loss of Abyan Province was symbolically significant of the regime’s inability to maintain control over its nation, but a full on attempt at capturing Aden, the former capital of South Yemen, could turn Ansar al-Sharia et al from a small insurgent group into a faction with serious designs on secession. And just one of many across Yemen.
So far officials say only 11 people were killed in fighting on the outskirts, but as with last week’s attempt at retaking Zinjibar proved, the toll can mount in a hurry, and the government’s military isn’t necessarily in a good position to fight off the militant factions.