The Republican Guard, led by Colonel Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the son of President Saleh, stormed on 18 December a village near Marib east of Sanaa. Up to 22 people are believed to have been killed in the attack, which was launched with helicopter gunships against militants sheltering with the Al-Jalal tribe.

Thousands of Yemenis are believed to have fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Upon their return to Yemen, many of those fighters fought in a militant brigade against southern secessionists in the 1994 civil war. Many Yemenis have also been discovered among defeated Taliban forces now in Afghanistan. Others have become implicated in terrorist and kidnapping incidents in Yemen.

The Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, a group connected to Al-Qaeda, is believed to have been responsible for the kidnapping and subsequent deaths of Western tourists in December 1998 and the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 that led to the deaths of 18 sailors. Another group, Yemen’s Islamic Jihad, is also under investigation. It is led by Tariq al-Fadhli, a southern aristocrat and veteran of the Afghan resistance. His long-standing connection to Yemen’s political elite has proved a source of tension with Washington.