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Why Al Qaeda finds sympathy in Yemen

Student and taxi driver Abdul Jabbar al-Suhaili, who drags a soiled Israeli flag behind his car, says he wishes Osama bin Laden were president.

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Yemeni police troopers search cars at the gate of Sanaa International Airport Tuesday.

Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

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Trailing in the dirt behind a taxi here is a soiled Israeli flag with red boot prints, meant to symbolize the blood of Palestinians.

It may be a small protest by Yemeni college student and driver Abdul Jabbar al-Suhaili, who says he wishes Osama bin Laden were president. But the display taps into a far broader and perennial issue that continues to draw recruits for Al Qaeda; engenders mistrust of the US, Israel’s closest ally; and echoes answers given in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when Americans asked, “Why do they hate us?

“There are many guys all over the world with Al Qaeda, because they see the US and Israel are fighting to steal their resources,” asserts Mr. Suhaili. “So what should people do? They fight.”

Why does a conflict more than 1,200 miles away from this southern corner of the Arabian Peninsula – one that has raged three times longer than this 20-year-old has been alive – matter to him?

Palestine will remain in our hearts until liberation – this is the least we can do. Israel has done nothing for us – it kills Muslims, makes problems for everyone, and doesn’t listen to the United Nations.”

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