watch a slideshow
yemen dispatches

+ "Arriving in Yemen"
25-26 September, Sana'a

+ "The Wedding Party"
27 September, Sana'a

+ "A Talking Drug"
28 September, Sana'a

+ "The World's Most Ancient Skyscrapers"
3 October, Sana'a

+ "Americans Are Vampires"
7 October, Sana'a

+ "Waiting for Rahma"
9 October, Sana'a

related links/interviews

In late September of 2002, FRONTLINE's producers arrived in the mountainous country of Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden and the final destination of their journey. They went there to explore why half of Al Qaeda's foot soldiers are Yemeni.

As producer Marcela Gaviria details in one of her behind-the-scenes dispatches, the government has detained more than 100 suspected Al Qaeda members. But the prisoners have strong popular support; a group calling themselves "Sympathizers of Al Qaeda" takes credit for terrorist bomb attacks in Sana'a, the capital, and says that it will keep bombing until the men are freed.

FRONTLINE's team interviewed U.S. Ambassador Edmund Hull, who believes that a number of Al Qaeda operatives are still at large in Yemen, and Yemeni foreign minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi, who insists that the government is doing all it can to apprehend Al Qaeda operatives.

The team visited a small town in Yemen's central highlands. Families tell FRONTLINE of their hatred for America, the reasons their family members joined Al Qaeda, and why they would also be proud to join the ranks of the terror organization. In Taiz -- where many of the detainees held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are from -- FRONTLINE producers meet a Yemeni family that boasts of having six of its members in Al Qaeda.

FRONTLINE's "In Search of Al Qaeda" concludes with a memorable interview with a young, articulate woman, Rahma Hugira, an activist and advocate for Yemen's detained Al Qaeda suspects. Hugira tells FRONTLINE, as co-producer Marcela Gaviria recounts in an email dispatch, "I now feel it is my duty to raise my son to become the next Osama bin Laden."


Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi
He is the foreign minister of Yemen. In this interview he describes the Yemeni government's efforts to track down Al Qaeda terrorists in collaboration with the U.S. military. However, he tells FRONTLINE that he believes poverty is a breeding ground for terrorism and criticizes the U.S. for not delivering on promised financial aid.

Abdul Karim Al-Eryani
He has twice served as Yemen's prime minister (1980-1983 and 1998-2001) and currently is an advisor to President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In this interview, Eryani describes how many veterans of the Afghan jihad against the Soviets returned to Yemen to fight the communists during Yemen's civil war.

Rahma Hugira
She is a Yemeni journalist who writes for The Yemen Daily. After she interviewed seven Al Qaeda suspects in prison, she became sympathetic to their cause. She tells FRONTLINE that Muslims view U.S. policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine as personal attacks.

Edmund Hull
The U.S. ambassador to Yemen, he previously served as the State Department's acting coordinator for counterterrorism. Hull coordinated the Nov. 4, 2002 missile strike that killed Al Qaeda's top operative in Yemen. He tells FRONTLINE that prior to Sept. 11, the Yemeni government had a "laissez-faire" attitude towards Islamic dissidents and extremists, but that has changed. He believes that since Sept. 11, Yemen has become "a less hospitable place than the Al Qaeda operatives anticipated."

Related Links

Who is Attacking Whom?
In this essay written for FRONTLINE, Yemeni journalist Rahma Hugira pleads, "Refrain from sending your sons to kill us in our homelands and loot our resources, so that our sons do not come to you in search of revenge."

The USS Cole Investigation
FBI and U.S. government officials,interviewed for FRONTLINE's recent report "The Man Who Knew," describe the significant obstacles the FBI confronted in Yemen while investigating the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off the Yemeni coast. These roadblocks included uncooperative Yemeni officials and a hostile, dangerous environment.

Yemen Pursuing Terror Its Own Way
This article from The Washingon Post tracks both successes and failures in Yemen's attempt to crack down on Al Qaeda within its borders. It notes, "In contrast to Indonesia, which hesitated to crack down on Islamic extremists despite repeated U.S. appeals, Yemen shows signs it has made the fight its own." [Oct. 17, 2002]

Yemen Turns to Tribes to Aid Hunt for Qaeda
This New York Times story explains how the Yemeni government is turning to tribal leaders to assist in its search for Al Qaeda -- methods which include holding 40 sons of tribal leaders hostage to ensure the tribesmen's cooperation. [Oct. 27, 2002; Note: free registration required.]

BBC Country Profile: Yemen
This BBC page is a good primer on Yemen and includes a timeline of key events in Yemeni history, a profile of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, demographic and economic stats on the country, and links to English-language Yemeni media sites.

Terrorism Q&A: Yemen
A fact sheet from the Council on Foreign Relations which describes Yemen as "a poor Muslim country with a weak central government, armed tribal groups in outlying areas, and porous borders, which makes it fertile ground for terrorists." It also says that although the exact number of Al Qaeda in Yemen is unknown, the country "was second only to Saudi Arabia in being the source of soldiers for the international Islamist brigade that fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan and that gave birth to Al Qaeda."

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