A tribesman walks near a building damaged last year by a US drone strike targeting suspected al-Qaeda militants in Azan of the southeastern Yemeni province of Shabwa, Feb. 3, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah). Read also: “My Village Was Attacked By US Drones in Yemen”
Making enemies in Yemen
Aljazeera – Sun, May 5, 2013
A group of men stand at attention in front of a raised American flag billowing in the wind. The strained sounds of America’s national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner, echo through the courtyard.
This is not the scene of a Memorial Day celebration or military ceremony in Tennessee or Texas. This image comes to us from war-torn South Yemen, and the man standing tall and proud in the foreground is Tariq al-Fadhli. A former associate and friend of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan during the 1980s, he returned to his home of Zinjibar near Aden in Abyan province and would come to be a prominent leader in the current tribal resistance against the Yemeni central government. A former member of the ruling party, al-Fadhli is the head of the Fadhli tribe and son of the last British-backed sultan of the Fadhli Sultanate.
Though the former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh would accuse al-Fadhli of being a terrorist and member of al-Qaeda, al-Fadhli saw the US as an ally in his struggle against the government, and, in turn, saw himself as an asset for the US due to his connections with his fellow Yemeni, bin Laden. In a 2010 interview in the New York Times, he stated :
“I can be a mediator between America and al-Qaeda. We can be allied with the United States against terrorism, and we will achieve the interests of the United States, not those of the regime”.
To underline his support for the US, he released the video of him and his fellow tribesmen standing at attention before the Stars and Stripes. Referring to his days in Afghanistan, al-Fadhli stated:
“The Americans were our allies back then, and what I am doing now by raising the American flag is a continuation of this old alliance”.
One year later, al-Fadhli would shoot a video showing him burning that same American flag. He was explicit about his reasons for firmly turning against the US. He specifically cites a 2009 incident in which a US cluster bombing of a village in Abyan province in southern Yemen killed 41 people, among them 21 children and 14 women.