Al Qaeda Capitalizing on Yemen Unrest

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The biggest terrorist threat to the United States may not come from Iran or Afghanistan --  but from al Qaeda in Yemen.

The terrorist group violently seized the town of southern city of Zinjibar in late May, declaring it the capital of its Islamic emirate.

Meanwhile, embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has fled to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment after being seriously wounded in a rocket attack on his compound last week.  It's unclear whether he will return to Yemen.

The embattled leader left behind a nation on the brink of anarchy as warring tribes and Islamic jihadists seek to take advantage of the growing chaos.

"When you look at the indicators throughout Yemen, they're all pointing in the wrong direction," noted Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a terrorism analyst with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

"It's a country that's running out of oil, it's running out of water," he told CBN News. "Saana is predicted to be the first waterless capital in the world before the end of this decade. You have high rates of unemployment."

Then there is Yemen's al Qaeda problem.

Spearheaded by American-born cleric Anwar al Awlaki, the terrorist group's Yemen branch has had a hand in several recent attacks on U.S soil.

Such attacks include the 2009 Fort Hood massacre, the failed Christmas Day underwear bombing in 2010, and most recently a plot to blow up cargo planes bound for the U.S.

U.S. officials fear that as Yemen descends into further unrest, al Qaeda fighters there will be much tougher to track as they continue to make plans to strike America.

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Erick Stakelbeck

Erick Stakelbeck

CBN News Correspondent

Erick Stakelbeck is a sought after authority on terrorism and national security issues with extensive experience in television, radio, and print media. Stakelbeck is a correspondent and terrorism analyst for CBN News.  Follow Erick on Twitter @Staks33.