Tonight: Inside Al Qaeda in Yemen

May 29, 2012

This morning, The New York Times took a deep look inside how the Obama administration develops its aggressive kill list for Al Qaeda suspects.  Their bios are studied like “macabre ‘baseball cards,'” in the words of one official, and the president often makes the ultimate decision as to who will be put in the crosshairs next.

The Times reports that the president has personally signed off on every strike made in Yemen, where militants known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, have been battling to establish a foothold in the southern region of the country. There have been more than a dozen drone strikes in Yemen in the last two months alone.

Tonight, FRONTLINE takes you inside Al Qaeda in Yemen, in a film The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius described as “fascinating” and “gutsy.”

In the film, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an Iraqi-born reporter for The Guardian, negotiated his way into Al Qaeda territory to meet the militants and the people they now govern. He took a huge risk: the area is remote, far from the reach of the weak Yemeni government. And Al Qaeda has kidnapped and killed journalists in the past.

Abdul-Ahad introduces viewers to a string of dusty, desolate towns under the black flag of Al Qaeda. There, under the threat of American drone strikes, militants now plot attacks on the U.S. and work to construct an Islamic state, governed by Sharia law.

American strikes have worked to the militants’ advantage by whipping up local opposition to the U.S. and by extension, the Yemeni government. But Al Qaeda has also run into resistance as it attempts to enforce its rule on the people, some of whom have been horrified by the group’s grisly punishments for infractions. Already, some of Yemen’s powerful tribes have rebelled against the militants, but they are far from united against Al Qaeda. As Abdul-Ahad shows, the battle for Yemen is far from over.

You can watch a five-minute preview of the film here; check your local listings for the broadcast or watch it online, starting at 10 pm EST.

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