UK & World News
Yemen: The Frontline Of Fight Against Al Qaeda
If there is an actual frontline in the war against al Qaeda, there is only one - and it is in the desert towns of Abyan in Southern Yemen.
It is where the terror group has taken control, built training camps and plotted attacks on the United States and the world's oil trade.
Eyewitnesses who have fled the fighting have told Sky News that the camps have been set up and run by foreign Islamic jihadists who are recruiting youngsters to take up arms in their own country and abroad.
The Yemeni army supported by US advisors and missile-laden drones are engaged in vicious battles with fighters from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The army is focusing on the towns of Jaar and the regional capital Zinjibar, which fell to AQAP during last year's chaotic Arab Spring uprising.
Pictures passed to Sky News from inside Jaar and Zinjibar show AQAP still largely in control with checkpoints and groups of armed fighters controlling the streets.
Their leader Jalal Beleidy Al Marqashy can be seen feted by locals walking through areas that have been attacked by the Yemeni military but not taken.
The fighting is just 30 miles or so from Aden, the strategically vital port that overlooks sea lanes that carry a third of the world's oil supplies from the gulf.
AQAP wants to attack and control Aden's port where the USS Cole was hit by a suicide bomber in 2000.
Hundreds of thousands have fled the fighting and the grasp of al Qaeda and are living in squalid camps. In Aden, 160,000 are living in half-built or abandoned schools and government buildings.
They say they are getting little aid or assistance. Almost all left carrying what they could. Their homes have since been destroyed. They have lost everything.
They say that AQAP began moving into their home areas last year and began radicalising the youth. Focusing on the poorest and supplying them with food and grooming the most likely to join and go to war - both in Yemen and abroad.
"They chose the ones they wanted and they persuaded them to join. They are convincing them that America is evil," said the camp leader, Yousef Al Omr.
"There were foreigners from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Afghanistan leading the camps and training the youth. They were the most radical, far worse than anyone in Yemen," he said.
It is these training camps and plots developed in Yemen to blow up America-bound planes that has put this country at the centre of US efforts to combat the spread of al Qaeda.
Aden is a city wracked with insecurity. Separatists and AQAP militia vie for positions of power in the poorest districts. Gunmen randomly close roads and set up check points in spite of a huge official military presence.
There are army checkpoints surrounding the city and tanks line the beaches. They fear a Mumbai-style assault from the sea by al Qaeda.
The coastguards, trained by American advisors, have been tasked with protecting Aden and the shipping lanes through to the Suez Canal.
But AQAP already controls swathes of coastline to the east of Aden and the guards say they and passing oil tankers are under constant threat from attack.
"As soon as American or British ships come into the port al Qaeda prepare to attack us," one of the coastguards said as we joined them on a patrol of the port.
"They are nasty and they are crazy and there isn't much we can do to stop them," he said.
Asked if the AQAP threat had got better since the battle against them had started, he replied: "Are you kidding? This has only just started, and it will get a lot worse."