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U.S./World

Militants in Yemen tightening grip on southern cities

| Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SANAA, Yemen -- Islamic militants have consolidated their hold over a southern city in Yemen, helping residents who want to flee, residents said on Monday.

In contrast, militants in control of another nearby city are enforcing a stringent version of Islamic rule, according to residents.

Government forces do not appear to have the will to fight the Islamists, raising fears that al-Qaida's most dangerous wing is making significant gains as the weakened regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh unravels in the face of an array of opponents.

The militants, operating under the name "Ansar al-Sunna," or supporters of Islamic Sharia law, captured the coastal city of Zinjibar in late May.

Retiree Abdullah al-Mohandes, 65, said residents were running out of food and were heavily dependent on kitchen gardens to survive.

Al-Mohandes, however, had some praise for the militants.

"To be completely honest, we have not been badly treated by the mujahedeen. On the contrary, they try to win our goodwill all the time," he said. "If you tell them you want to leave town, they escort you out and give you money to tide you over."

In contrast to Zinjibar, residents of Jaar are unhappy with their city's new militant masters.

The Islamists have been feuding with local clerics over control of the city's main mosque and have been using loudspeakers to urge the city's young men to join them.

Women have not been allowed to leave their homes except when chaperoned by their fathers, husbands or brothers.

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