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Humanitarian crisis in southern Yemen worsens

UN says tens of thousands displaced by fighting between Yemen army and Al Qaeda.
Yemen abyan 2011 6 21Enlarge
Yemeni soldiers stand guard on the side of the road at the entrance to the southern city of Abyan on Nov. 25, 2010. (Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)

The humanitarian crisis in southern Yemen is worsening as more than 45,000 people have been displaced by fighting between the Yemeni army and Al Qaeda militants, a U.N. official said today, speaking to reporters in Geneva.

Al Qaeda gunmenfirst siezed the coastal city of Zinjibar, the capital of southern Abyan province, at the end of May and have been capitalizing on a power vacuum that has gripped the country since June 4, when an attack on President Ali Abdullah Saleh forced him to leave the country to seek medical treatment. A military official told AFP that more than 100 soldiers have so far been killed in the fighting.

Some analysts say that Al Qaeda has sought to take advantage of the unrest between Saleh's government and its opponents in order to seize territory. Others, however, have argued that Saleh purposely handed Zinjibar over to the militants in order to reinforce his claim that an end to his three-decade rule would embolden Al Qaeda, a claim that has drawn the attention of the United States.

The Saleh administration has been an important ally of the United States in the war on terror and has so far escaped some of the condemnations that President Barack Obama has leveled at other regional leaders who have responded violently to peaceful protest movements.

Either way, GlobalPost correspondent Jeb Boone reported, Zinjibar has become a war zone.

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