The warning from two influential French senators was stark, but it suggested there was still time to “save Yemen so that it does not become the next base for al Qaeda.”
Diplomats in Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt used words such as “frightened” and said al Qaeda was flourishing as Yemen faltered.
But the most dire assessments came from Saudi Arabia, where officials said Yemen would be a more hospitable environment for terrorists than even Afghanistan and was already so infested that it should be considered al Qaeda's "main home."
In cold and unflinching language, dozens of previously secret US diplomatic cables betray a level of international concern about the terrorist threat emanating from Yemen that is deeper and broader than has been publicly revealed.
The cables, from 2009 and 2010, depict a country on the verge of becoming a failed state even before the recent uprisings; a leader who exploited the threat of al Qaeda to extract foreign counterterrorism help that he sometimes diverted for use against internal foes; and an al Qaeda franchise remarkably suited to thriving in Yemen's tribal culture and rugged terrain.
Mounting demonstrations against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh have heightened US concerns about his country, disrupting counterterrorism operations involving US Special Operations forces, aerial surveillance from armed Predator aircraft and clandestine CIA operations.
The cables, provided by the anti-secrecy web site WikiLeaks, predate the Middle East uprisings by 10 or more months. Even so, they illuminate the stakes for the United States and its allies in a nation that, even when seemingly stable, served as a launchpad for attacks, including the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009.
Protester killed, dozens shot at
An anti-regime protester died of gunshot wounds as Yemeni security forces shot dozens of demonstrators in overnight clashes in the cities of Taez and Sanaa, medical officers said today.
"One protester died of his wounds late on Saturday," said a medic treating casualties at a makeshift field hospital in the flashpoint city of Taez, south of the capital.
A total of 43 protesters were wounded by live gunfire in clashes between security forces and demonstrators calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster that raged deep into the night, medics said.
(Guardian News Service)