Yemenis say they have bigger problems than al Qaeda

The New York Times reports:

On the streets of Sana, the nation’s conflict-stricken capital, the news of the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American propagandist for Al Qaeda who inspired jihadists around the world, was largely overshadowed by the continuing domestic turmoil here.

Many Yemenis had not even heard that Mr. Awlaki had been killed, even by Friday night. And most had only a faint sense of why the United States considered him a highly significant target. If anything, Yemenis thought his death would only increase their woes.

“I don’t know why he was important, except that he was a terrorist,” said Belal Masood, who works in a restaurant in Sana’s old city. “But maybe this will create a problem for us Yemenis, because when you strike Al Qaeda they normally strike back larger. Really, we wish they could have killed him in another country.”

Another man, Walid Seneb, who was sitting on a street curb with three friends on Friday night, said, “We don’t like these terrorists who make problems for us. Mr. Seneb was the only one of the four men who had heard of the cleric’s death.

“But right now there are worse problems,” he said. “Our national crisis is the biggest problem. There is no water, electricity, everything from the government stopped.”

After eight months of antigovernment protests that began during the Arab spring, Yemen’s government has been torn apart. The armed forces are divided between those loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and those who follow a rebel military commander. Conflict between the two sides turned into urban warfare in Sana two weeks ago, with over 100 people being killed. With fears that a large-scale civil war may break out and a debilitating economic crisis , Yemenis are sufficiently absorbed with their own problems that they do not have much time or attention to devote to the death of a man who was most known for reaching out to the English-speaking world of Muslim extremists.

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