Do Yemenis live in a Bizarro World --- or do we?
By Jeffrey Fleishman
One reporter's search for the new face of terror
ANA, Yemen (MCT) "Anwar Awlaki?"
"Is he a doctor? I don't think I know him."
Americans may regard the U.S.-born cleric with the beard and hard stare as a new face of terror, but when you mention al-Awlaki in the Yemeni capital, it's as if you've asked someone to solve a complicated bit of arithmetic. Eyes narrow, faces scrunch.
"I don't know who he is. I work all day and don't watch a lot of TV," said
The radical preacher is on the CIA's assassination list and is believed to be hiding with al-Qaida fighters in
Internet videos, website manifestos and pundit rhetoric are splicing al-Awlaki into the American consciousness. But he is largely unknown here or referred to as an apparition hiding in a distant crevice. Even his al-Qaida in the
Rumors dart like sparrows across this city, flitting through conversations, sermons and newsrooms. Perceptions are shaped by conjecture and thinly drawn asides. They highlight the ideological and emotional divides between the U.S. and the
He slipped on his sunglasses and rode away, just as another student,
In an electronics store, pecking away at a laptop on a slow morning before prayers,
"Al-Qaida is an Israeli gang using Islam as a cover," he said. "They want to defame Islam through terrorist acts.
Many Yemenis believe that Saleh, a shrewd tribesman who has ridden atop this country's rambunctious politics for three decades, is inflating al-Qaida's strength as a ruse to attract Western aid. His government has attempted to link terrorist elements to an intensifying separatist movement in the south that analysts fear could ignite a civil war.
But nobody knows; figuring out reality here is like reading road signs in the fog. Besides, there are too many other problems: joblessness, corruption, malnutrition, human rights abuses, and questions like how a man such as Abdulrab — who charges about
Don't complain too loudly. The beggar at your elbow may be a spy. Interlopers are everywhere, listening, making phone calls. Or so it seems. Yemenis love intrigue, folding and unfolding possibilities, sketching scenarios to fit a confusing world beyond the old city's fortress walls.
But what of al-Awlaki? A Yemeni judge on Saturday ordered his "forcible arrest." But despite his website and eloquent missives, al-Awlaki, known for public relations savvy and quoting from the Quran and
"Never heard of him," said Adnan Lotef, who served flat bread and tin plates of beans at a cafe not far from men with paint rollers and shovels waiting on corners and hoping for a day's work.
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Comment by clicking here. © 2010, Los Angeles Times Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
© 2010, Los Angeles Times Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.