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Guest Thinkers

Explosion in al-Jawf

In what can only be described as an “oh no, not this too,” moment, a car bomb exploded in the middle of a procession of al-Huthi followers celebrating the controversial Eid al-Ghadir holiday in Yemen’s northern al-Jawf governorate. Most early reports (in Arabic and English) are rushing to lay the blame for this latest attack at the feet of al-Qaeda.

That may indeed turn out to be the case, but I need more proof (like a statement from AQAP) claiming credit for the attack before I buy this. It is not even clear from the various reports if there was indeed a suicide bomber. Certainly, AQAP has put out a lot of anti-Huthi and anti-Shi’a rhetoric in the past and has even attempted to split those two groups off from Yemen’s larger Zaydi community, but AQAP’s verbal attacks have yet to cross the line into physical assaults.

But before we rush to judgment, let’s remember that there have been other attacks in the north (motorcycle bomb outside the mosque in Sa’dah, anyone?) that looked like al-Qaeda and yet were never decisively linked to the group, which has never been shy about taking credit.

Regardless of who is behind the attack, it will likely be disastrous, coming at the worst possible time for Yemen.

The last thing the government needs right now – at a time when the US is pressing it to take the fight to AQAP – is a 7th round of war in the north. A civil war between AQAP and the Huthis would be just as catastrophic for the country (remember Iraq) and I don’t see any way the government could stay out of such a back-and-forth.

The Huthis will want to retaliate and any more attacks – regardless of who they are directed at – will only further inflame an already combustible situation. Even before this attack, the last few weeks have seen increasing clashes in the north. Most of the previous six rounds were sparked by major attacks like the one today. Will this be the one that finally pushes the region back over the edge and into war once more?

As always, we are a retaliation or two away from all-out war in the north.

Waq al-waq will have more on this over the next couple of days, including a look at the tribal leaders killed in today’s strike.


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