Yemen the new centre for training jihadists
Tim Dick and Nick McKenzie
October 31, 2006
GROUPS of young Australian men are going to Yemen for jihadi training, say law enforcement sources who are concerned the country has replaced Central Asia as a destination for extremists.Australian security agencies recently identified a small group of men from NSW who travelled to Yemen for religious and military training. It is believed the men were of Arabic background. It is not known if this group has any connection to the Australians arrested in Yemen.One of the men was stopped from going after he was approached by authorities and warned that he would risk breaking terrorism laws if he flew to Yemen. A law enforcement source said Yemen was attracting radical local Islamists for religious and military training because of the counter-terrorist crackdowns in nations such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.“Yemen is the new wild west,” the source said. Authorities in Australia have been monitoring individuals who travel for extended periods to countries with radical Islamic training camps, although the ability to move easily over borders makes such detection difficult.One of Yemen’s most notable exports – along with oil, fish and Osama bin Laden’s father – are the extremist teachings of Islamic fundamentalists, such as the alleged al-Qaeda financier Sheik Abdul-Majid al-Zindani.The US Government declared the red-bearded firebrand a “specially designated global terrorist” in 2004 for his financial and spiritual support of bin Laden.The conservative American magazine National Review dubbed him the “Yemeni Sheik of Hate”.Zindani founded the controversial al-Iman University, one several religious colleges in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, which are often accused of promulgating anti-Western hatred.He reportedly claimed in one taped sermon that the attacks of September 11, 2001, were a conspiracy between the US President, George Bush, and Jews.Zindani leads the Islamist wing of an opposition party, Islah, and has helped the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas raise funds, but he is reported to be close to the relatively pro-Western Yemeni President, Ali Abdullah Saleh.Among the university’s former students is John Walker Lindh, who is serving 20 years in a US jail for fighting with the Taliban.Zindani and his students have been linked to the bombing of USS Cole in Aden in 2000 and the murders of three American missionaries in 2002.The university was briefly closed by authorities after September 11, 2001, in a crackdown on fundamentalist teachings.Before its suspension, it had about 6000 students, 800 of whom were foreigners. Many were expelled after the attacks on the US, but it – and others in Yemen – still attract students.Zindani’s Friday sermons are taped and are on sale by the evening of the same day.