There is still no word on the identity of the third who was taken into custody. This is the second time in recent months that al-Qaeda has had rather poor luck (I had hoped to write up a quick but detailed post on this but sadly other commitments have made that an impossibility). They weren't stopped at a border post, but rather a rotating police checkpoint that had a female policewoman on duty. What are the odds?
Still, I think the presence of Yusif al-Shihri, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, suggests that something rather big was in the works. This is where I part company with Mustafa al-'Ani of the Gulf Research Center, who tells al-Sharq al-Awsat that the presence of suicide belts (more accurately vests) indicates that they were planning to assassinate officials. I tend to think they were after something else, having already tried and failed with Muhammad bin Nayif, but I suppose we'll never know. And al-'Ani and myself will both be left with our own views.
Al-'Ani is also quoted in the CSM piece by Caryle Murphy and Laura Kasinof.
I get worried when I see things like this in print:
"Another reason the Yemeni government tolerates the group's presence may be because the jihadi fighters sometimes assist Yemeni forces in military operations against the rebels, a Western diplomat said ..."
As it makes me worry that whoever these anonymous sources are have no clue about what they are commenting on. Certainly this is an accusation that could have been directed at the Yemeni government in years prior to 2006. But there is no evidence that anyone currently in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as led by al-Wahayshi has been co-opted or used by the government. This group is a different generation with different goals from previous versions of al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Unless you want to be embarrassingly wrong, it is dangerous to apply yesterday's analysis to today's events. But then again I guess it helps if you don't attach your name to your quote.
I could spend some time disagreeing with other parts about what the Saudis see when they look at Yemen and the concept of under-governed spaces - which I have recently changed my own mind about - but my allotted time for blogging is up for the afternoon and additionally it seems in bad taste.
I am traveling for the next few days and so postings will likely be reduced, although I will try to post at least once a day. No promises.