Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In Yemen chaos, Islamic State grows to rival al Qaeda

(Reuters) Al Qaeda's leadership of Islamist militancy in Yemen is being challenged amid the chaos of civil war by its rival Islamic State, which could become a bigger threat to the group than the U.S. drones that periodically kill its commanders.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) remains the country's top militant network and its several thousand fighters and bomb makers, who have repeatedly tried to bring down Western aircraft, are still seen as a serious threat by Washington.

But followers of Islamic State in Yemen have sought to steal al Qaeda's thunder by launching a string of attacks against the Zaydi Shi'ite Muslim Houthi group, which is fighting a messy war against a Saudi-led coalition of Arab counties.

Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, evolved from the Iraqi branch of al Qaeda and now controls swathes of Iraq and Syria. It broke from the Sunni Muslim group founded by Osama bin Laden and has declared a caliphate to rule over all Muslims.