The takeover of Zinjibar is likely to bolster US concerns that the vacuum created by Yemen's unrest is allowing militant groups like Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to gain strength.
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Islamist militants took over the southern coastal city of Zinjibar (see map) this weekend, bolstering claims that Yemen's unrest, which borders on civil war, is leaving a vacuum that is allowing militants to gain strength. The clashes with the government have so far been concentrated in the north, around Sanaa.
About 300 militants took over the city Sunday after government forces stationed there left to boost security elsewhere. Several news outlets reported that the men are Al Qaeda fighters, possibly from the local franchise, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). However, the Wall Street Journal reports that although Abyan Province is an AQAP stronghold, local residents say the men are part of Ansar al-Sharia. That group is made up of local tribesman who aim to sent up a fundamentalists Islamic state in the country's south, as the Taliban did in Afghanistan.