Yemen's Qaeda vows to avenge bin Laden

AFP , Wednesday 4 May 2011

Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen claims that thousands of jihadists are ready to follow bin Laden's 'path' with the US afraid that the group will exploit the political turmoil in the country

A leader of Al-Qaeda's branch in restive southern Yemen on Wednesday vowed revenge for the US killing of the worldwide network's founder Osama bin Laden.

"We will take revenge for the death of our Sheikh Osama bin Laden and we will prove this to the enemies of God," he told AFP, contacted by telephone from Yemen's southern province of Abyan, an Al-Qaeda stronghold.

"They will see what they haven't expected ... We are preparing a plan to continue jihad in the coming period," said the Al-Qaeda leader, requesting anonymity for "security reasons." "The martyrdom of Sheikh Osama does not mean that jihad (holy war) will end."

The official said that bin Laden had "prepared a thousand lions like himself and we will follow his path until we achieve God's promise to us -- an Islamic Caliphate."

The United States announced on Monday that US commandos had shot dead bin Laden in a raid on his sprawling villa near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

Residents in the Abyan towns of Mudia, Mahfad and Loder -- all of which are controlled by Al-Qaeda -- said the jihadist network's supporters, mourning bin Laden, put up black banners at their homes and along roads.

Saudi and Yemeni Al-Qaeda branches merged in January 2009 to form the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), posing a serious threat to US interests as well as Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

While bin Laden's ancestral homeland of Yemen have hailed his death, his acolytes in the impoverished country called it a "catastrophe" and vowed to keep up jihad, or Islamic holy war.

In March, at least 150 people were killed in a massive blast and fire at an ammunition plant looted the previous day by AQAP in Abyan, after parts of the region slipped from Sanaa's control.

Washington has expressed fears that Al-Qaeda could take advantage of a prolonged political crisis in Yemen, where close ally Saleh has faced three months of mass protests calling for his ouster.

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