Yemen Port Has History as Base for Radical Groups

Article excerpt

AMMAN, Jordan -- In a sometimes lawless country of tribal rule and frequent kidnappings, the Yemeni port of Aden and its mountainous surroundings stands in its own class.

Aden was the seat of a Communist movement that evicted British colonialists in the 1960s and ruled over what became the People's Democratic Republic of South Yemen until the country was unified in 1990. Before then, the hot, muggy port had been the scene of sometimes bloody factional fighting between wings of the Marxist ruling group.

In more contemporary times, it provided a starting point for Osama bin Laden's efforts at militant organization and proved among the most difficult areas for the government, based in San'a in the northern part of the country. As recently as 1998, government officials acknowledged that an armed group called the Aden-Abyan Army, based on a rugged coastline perfect for smuggling and subterfuge, had escaped its attempts to end Yemen's image as a sort of free zone for Islamic radicals and suspected terrorists.

In December of that year, the group seized several western tourists, triggering a gun battle with government troops that left four of the hostages dead. …


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