'A recent investigation by the Associated Press found that militias in Yemen backed by the Saudi-led coalition, of which the US and UK are a de facto part, have been recruiting hundreds of al-Qaeda militants to fight Houthi forces to reinstate the ousted government of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
The coalition has been cutting secret deals with these al-Qaeda fighters, paying some to leave key towns with weapons and looted cash worth up to $100m. This, and similar stories that have emerged in the three years of Yemen’s war, begs a key question: Given their arming of Saudi Arabia, are Washington and London also arming and empowering al-Qaeda militants in Yemen?
The coalition and al-Qaeda militants have been described by the International Crisis Group as having a “tacit alliance” in Yemen. Ansar al-Sharia, a militant group created by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as its local insurgent arm - has regularly fought alongside coalition forces against Houthis in Aden and other parts of the south, including the cultural capital of Taiz, indirectly obtaining weapons from the coalition.
Wide range of weaponry
On the ground in Yemen, coalition forces comprise a mix of anti-Houthi militias, factions and tribal warlords, in which AQAP militants are often intertwined and present in all the frontlines. AQAP is benefiting from the tremendous amount of light and heavy weaponry that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are sending to Yemen to arm the militias - everything from assault rifles to anti-tank guided missiles.
According to the International Crisis Group, AQAP “has acquired a wide range of new weaponry, including heavy weapons from Yemeni military camps or acquired indirectly from the Saudi-led coalition”.'
Read more: Are the US and UK empowering al-Qaeda in Yemen? Of course they are!
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