Sana’a, May 3 (IANS/AKI) The Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has started offering free electricity and gas to villagers in Yemen’s restive southern region, according to a Saudi daily.
The al-Sharq al-Awsat daily said the Al Qaeda has gained control of swathes of the southern provinces of Abyen and Lahaj and Shabwa, and was reportedly offering essential services the central government was failing to provide.
In Jaar town, the militants are also said to be offering water, and have abolished all taxes imposed by Sana’a.
Militants on armoured vehicles have reportedly surrounded Azzan, in Shabwa, where the AQAP’s regional commander Anwar al-Awlaki’s son was killed in a drone strike in October 2011.
According to the treport, largely unopposed, the militants have filled a power vacuum left by more than a year of unrest in the impoverished state. Huge demonstrations against long-time ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh eventually led to his resignation in February and subsequent elections.
The AQAP was formed in January 2009 by a merger between two regional offshoots of the international Islamist militant network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
The US president’s counter-terrorism adviser has called it “the most active operational franchise” of the Al Qaeda beyond Pakistan and Afghanistan.