(Reuters) – Yemen’s al Qaeda wing has ordered men and women in the east to obey its strict interpretation of Islamic law, saying it aimed to set up an emirate in the remote area, local media and a resident said.
The announcement by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) will stoke concerns about the territorial ambitions of militant groups weeks after al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State declared its own caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq.
AQAP – one of the most active branches of the global militant network – has been shifting its operations to Yemen’s eastern Hadramout province after the army, backed by U.S. drones, helped drive it out of southern strongholds this year.
The impoverished country neighboring the world’s biggest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, is also facing southern separatists, northern rebels and political turmoil that surged after 2011 protests unseated president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Leaflets in AQAP’s name have been distributed in shops, streets and villages in rural Hadramout over the past two days, Saleh Barzeeq, a shop owner in Seiyoun, told Reuters, confirming media reports.
“These leaflets warned women from going to shops or going out without being accompanied by a mahram (male guardian,)” he said by telephone.
According to local media, one statement read: “AQAP warns male and female Muslims in Wadi Hadramout that they must adhere to the laws of Islamic Sharia after the debauchery that we have seen in the souks”…