27th February, 2012
Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen have given four people 80 lashes each for drinking alcohol, in the presence of dozens of witnesses summoned to watch a show of summary justice.
The punishment was administered late on Sunday in the town of Jaar in Abyan province, a major Al-Qaeda stronghold in the restive south, witnesses said.
Since May, Al-Qaeda militants calling themselves Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) have taken control of several towns in Abyan.
The army, backed by US drones, has since been locked in battle with the extremists over the control of Abyan’s provincial capital Zinjibar.
The militants have enforced their own strict interpretation of Islamic justice, handing out lashes and severing the hands of people they accuse of stealing.
Jaar, where all such punishments have taken place, is under militant control and residents there say there is no government presence.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has taken advantage of a year of unrest in Yemen after protests erupted against the 33-year rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh who formally handed power to his deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi on Monday.
Hadi vowed in a speech on Saturday to continue battling the extremists.
His speech was followed a few hours later by an Al-Qaeda-style suicide attack on a presidential palace in the southeastern province of Hadramawt, in which 26 elite Republican Guard troops were killed.