An unmanned CIA drone blew up Islamist leader Anwar al Awlaki and an unknown number of companions in Yemen last week.
US president Barack Obama declared it a “major blow” against terrorism.
In fact, it is likely to accelerate Yemen’s slide towards civil war and encourage recruitment to Islamist rebels.
Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh claims he provided intelligence that helped the US to target its drones.
Saleh is desperate to extend his 33-year rule—despite growing opposition.
Student and youth groups set up a democracy camp in Change Square in the capital, Sana’a, in February. Saleh also faces both a Islamist rebellion and a separatist movement in the south.
These interlocking struggles have created enormous confusion.
So, a government warplane bombed a building housing an army unit in Zinjibar last Saturday, killing 30 soldiers.
The unit was loyal to General Ali Mohsin. Mohsin defected from the government side in March—but his troops have been fighting alongside government forces in the south against Islamist insurgents.
There is confusion over if this was an intentional attack on an enemy unit or “friendly fire”.
Hundreds of thousands marched out of Change Square on Wednesday of last week demanding Saleh stands down and faces trial.
Armed soldiers from units loyal to General Mohsin joined the protest.
Previously Mohsin’s troops have protected protests and rebel districts, but have not actively taken part in the demonstrations.
Saleh announced the following day that he will not step down. But after Friday prayers, tens of thousands took to the streets again demanding that he goes.