In Yemen, leading Muslim cleric Abd al-Majid Zindani, 69, has joined the anti-government protests, telling several thousand protesters: “An Islamic state is coming.” Zindani has long been an associate of Osama bin Laden, whom he knew personally when both lived in Afghanistan. Subsequently, he recruited Yemenis for bin Laden’s training camps. In February 2004, the U.S. designated Zindani, president of Iman University in Yemen, as a “loyalist to Osama bin Laden.”
Besides his ties with al-Qaeda, Zindani also is close to Hamas. On March 20, 2006, Zindani sponsored a major fundraising event for Hamas in Yemen, attended by the head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Mashaal. He also worked with the Muslim Brotherhood, and even established its Yemeni branch, known as the Islah party (the Reform party).
Despite his ties with radical Islam, Zindani has long supported Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. But now with his attacks on Saleh, that political alliance is finished. It also indicates the extent to which the president’s support is weakening. Will radical Islamic groups now take over the revolt in Yemen?