A number of Yemeni tribal sheikhs say the courage that tribesmen have displayed in defending their territory against al-Qaeda has been a critical factor in the government's fight against terrorism.
They told Al-Shorfa that the tribal efforts in expelling al-Qaeda from Radaa last month provided evidence of their important role in combating al-Qaeda's violence and brutality.
Tribesmen forced Ansar al-Sharia, an al-Qaeda affiliate, to withdraw from Radaa on January 24th after the group took control of parts of the city for 10 days. The group attempted to declare an Islamic emirate in Radaa under the leadership of Tareq al-Dahab, who was later killed by his brother in mid-February.
"The tribesmen's courage was the decisive factor in expelling al-Qaeda militants from the city after they surrounded [al-Qaeda's] fortified positions," said Sheikh Ali al-Mansouri, deputy assistant of Bayda province for Radaa affairs.
"The tribesmen have contributed to the government's efforts in its battles against al-Qaeda, especially during the difficult circumstances that Yemen is undergoing," he said. "The rejection by some al-Dahab clan members of Tareq al-Dahab's actions is the clearest evidence of this."
Al-Dahab was killed by his older brother Hizam al-Dahab on February 16th during a dispute that arose between them.
Tareq's al-Qaeda followers wanted to take up residence in a room in a mosque in al-Bayda province, Sheikh Khalid al-Dahab, Tareq's brother, told al-Arabiya television.
Hizam and his men objected to Tareq's request because the room is normally used as a shelter for the poor and others in need. The dispute escalated and led to an exchange of gunfire between the brothers that left Tareq dead.
Hizam reportedly fled to his house after the incident. Al-Qaeda militants banded together, surrounded the tribes to prevent them from coming to Hizam's aid, and then blew up Hizam's house.
"The barbarism, violence, and fanaticism of al-Qaeda militants in pursuit of their goals surprised no one. They bombed Hizam's house with the intent to kill not only him but everyone who was inside even though they committed no offense worthy of such punishment," said Sheikh Mohammed Jaraoun, a senior leader of the Qifah tribe that Tareq al-Dahab belonged to.
According to AFP, Hizam was killed along with his brother Majid and their nephew Ahmed.
"Tribal affiliation is very important to the Radaa tribesmen, and it takes precedence over any other affiliation, whether it is to a party or an organisation, including al-Qaeda," he said. "This unified all the tribesmen and local elders against al-Qaeda, including some of Tareq al-Dahab's brothers, whose stances are considered courageous. Hizam al-Dahab paid for his courage with his life."
Sheikh Abdul Salam al-Nasiri, a Radaa tribal sheikh, said that while the tribesmen were aware of al-Qaeda's brutality, they insisted on standing up to them and ultimately expelled the group from Radaa.
"The tribesmen's courage and resolve to prevent Radaa from becoming another Abyan compelled them to organise and take turns protecting various neighbourhoods by forming people's committees that cut off all supplies to al-Qaeda," al-Nasiri said. "They set up checkpoints and besieged al-Qaeda elements. This gave the army a chance to reorganise in the city and force al-Qaeda militants to withdraw."
"The tribesmen taught al-Qaeda a lesson in courage and protection of their territory and neighbourhoods," al-Nasiri added.
Dr. Saeed al-Jamhi, an al-Qaeda analyst and president of the al-Jamhi Centre for Studies and Research, said, "The tribal network is highly cohesive in Radaa, and the interest of the tribe is the top priority, and that is what enabled them to respond quickly to their tribe's call to defend its territory."
Al-Jamhi said there were powerful factors that motivated the tribesmen to vigorously defend their territory, including "the profusion of weapons among tribesmen in Radaa due to the pervasiveness of feuds. They feared that their city would become another Abyan and their lives would be tragically affected as happened with displaced Abyan residents."
Al-Jamhi said al-Qaeda's failure to devise a strategic plan enabled the tribesmen to drive its men out of Radaa.
Al-Qaeda handbook: 'The Management of Savagery'
"When al-Qaeda sets out to control a particular area, it does not consider the consequences of its actions. All it concerns itself with is entering the area and then relies on God's grace in taking control of it. They hope to find people who would put themselves at its service and support it, but this did not happen in Radaa because the tribe comes before everything else," he said.
Regarding al-Qaeda's use of violence as a means to achieve its goals, al-Jamhi said, "Al-Qaeda speaks openly about its tactics and is proud of its violent and brutal methods. It trains its members on utilising them, and there was even a book written by an al-Qaeda thinker titled 'The Management of Savagery'".
The book, which was released a few years ago, calls for the use of violence as a means to affect change, he said.
"Al-Qaeda and its affiliate groups will not hesitate to use violence, and their members are not ashamed by being called terrorists," al-Jamhi said.