The Marib Narratives

There are now three conflicting narratives about what exactly happened in Marib last week in the fighting between al-Qaeda and the Yemeni government. There is a media narrative, a government narrative and now al-Qaeda has weighed in with its own version of the events.

First, the media narrative claims that three soldiers were killed - in this version they are from the 101st division and at least seven were wounded.

The government has denied this, claiming that one soldier was killed and three wounded.

Al-Qaeda has just put out its own narrative of events claiming that it killed a number of soldiers - in this version they are from the National Security Bureau, which is headed by President Salih's nephew, 'Amar Muhammad Salih - including one officer and took seven prisoner. (Waq al-waq has a policy of not linking directly to al-Qaeda statements, but one can read a summary in Arabic at News Yemen here.) Al-Qaeda also denies claims that one of its members, 'Aydh al-Shabwani was killed or even that any were killed. Al-Qaeda also claims that it shelled the place where 'Amar was staying although there has not been independent confirmation that 'Amar was even in Marib or that the NSB was involved in the fighting.

Parsing these statements it is not clear who initiated the fight. Al-Qaeda claims that the government did while the government claims that al-Qaeda attacked a truck - at this point it is probably impossible to know. Al-Qaeda's statement makes it clear that the group believes it was attacked following visits to Yemen by an American general - I'm assuming they must mean David Petraeus - and Muhammad bin Nayif the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister.

The al-Ghad piece by Muhammad al-Ahmadi, which I linked to above, mentions two other names of al-Qaeda suspects besides al-Shabwani: Ali Said Jamil and Nasir bin Doha - for those eagle-eyed readers, or really for those following Yemen and al-Qaeda affairs for the past few years this last name should ring a bell. Given the name and the area this is almost certainly a relative of one of the individuals that Yemen killed in August 2007.

Also of note is the fact that in this most recent statement al-Qaeda makes a plea for the loyalty of the soldiers, asking them to switch sides and combat the war on terror, which it says is really a war on Islam. It also warns them to stay out of Marib and the 'Abidah tribal areas.

There was a quick turnaround with this statement, but that begs the question as to where is the latest issue of Sada al-Malahim, which was due to be released this past week.

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