Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 4
February 21, 2014 02:19 PM By: Andrew McGregor
SUCCESSFUL OFFENSIVE ESTABLISHES HOUTHI SHIITE MOVEMENT AS A POLITICAL FORCE IN THE NEW YEMEN
Since last October, the Zaydi Shiite Houthis of northern Yemen’s Sa’ada governorate have been involved in simultaneous conflicts with the Zaydi Shiites of the Hamid Confederation of tribes in neighboring Amran governorate and Salafist Sunnis concentrated in the town of Dammaj in Sa’ada governorate. Propelled by an apparently new armory of heavy weapons, the Houthists began to push south into neighboring Amran governorate in early January, eventually defeating the powerful al-Ahmar clan, leaders of the Hashid Arab confederation. By the time a ceasefire could be arranged in early February, Houthist forces were in the Arhab region, only 40 kilometers from the Yemeni capital of Sana’a (AFP, January 30).
The Zaydi, also known as “Fiver Shi’a,” constitute over 40 percent of Yemen’s population, though only a portion of this total are Houthis. They have traditionally had few major doctrinal differences with Yemen’s Sunni Shafi’i majority, but have run into conflict with the growing numbers of anti-Shiite Salafists in Sa’ada governorate. In the two years since the uprising that deposed Yemen’s old regime, the Houthis have made a dramatic transition from a Sa’ada-based rebel movement to an important and recognized political player in Yemen. Read the rest of this entry »
Jaar-sm (Photo credit: Julian Stallabrass)
Yemen: Yemen military recaptures Jaar and Zinjibar; interview with AQAP military spokesman features details on May 21 suicide attack, battle for Abyan; findings from May 21 suicide attack in Sana’a to be released next week
Horn of Africa: TFG, Kenyan troops clash with al Shabaab near Qoqani; al Shabaab recaptures Mahas from Ahlu Sunna and Ethiopian forces; al Shabaab arrests four people in Elbur; Somali peacemaker in Beledweyne assassinated; Kenya asks for financial assistance from U.S. ahead of assault on al Shabaab’s stronghold in Kismayo; newly trained TFG soldiers arrive to Beledweyne
Yemen Security Brief
- Yemen’s commander of the southern military zone General Salem Qatan reported that the former Ansar al Sharia strongholds of Zinjibar and Jaar in Abyan governorate have been “completely cleansed.” The Yemeni Defense Ministry said that the Yemeni military, backed by armed tribesmen, entered Zinjibar and Jaar where they clashed with Ansar al Sharia militants. At least 20 militants, four soldiers, and two civilians were killed in the attack. Twenty more Yemeni soldiers were also injured. The Defense Ministry added that between 200 and 300 Ansar al Sharia militants, including foreign fighters, fled from Jaar, Zinjibar, and Shaqra. Residents in Jaar reported that militants left behind flyers stating that Ansar al Sharia did not want to “cause any harm to Jaar and its inhabitants.” Additionally, the Yemeni Navy reportedly sunk 10 boats carrying Ansar al Sharia militants.
- In an interview with al Quds al Arabi released on June 12, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) military commander Qasim al Raymi provided details on Sana’a’s May 21 suicide attack. When asked why AQAP targeted Yemeni troops when it claims it is at war with the U.S., Raymi explained that the attack was in retaliation for the Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s campaign against militants in Abyan and demonstrates AQAP’s ability to “bring the attack to them.” He added that the battle for Abyan will continue for years.
- Yemeni Interior Minister Abdul Qadir Qahtan announced on June 11 that the findings from the investigation of the May 21 Sana’a suicide bombing will be released next week. The attack claimed by AQAP killed over 100 Yemeni soldiers.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Local residents reported that Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers, backed by Kenyan troops, clashed with al Shabaab militants near Qoqani in Lower Jubba region. Reports on casualties and injuries have yet to surface.
- Al Shabaab militants recaptured the town of Mahas in Hiraan region on June 11, reported locals. TFG and Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a forces withdrew before al Shabaab fighters arrived. Ahlu Sunna official Saney Mohamud Farah stated that the town fell to the militants due to the increased pressure felt from the growing presence of al Shabaab militants on the outskirts of Mahas.
FILE: Jan. 24, 2009. The leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Nasser al-Wahaishi, second from right, is surrounded by deputies in an Internet video. (Reuters)
By Catherine Herridge , June 08, 2012
Hundreds of hardcore Al Qaeda fighters are believed to be occupying the southern and eastern regions of Yemen in an effort to expand a safe haven and strengthen forces, U.S. officials familiar with the situation tell Fox News.
The officials described the threat to the U.S. as consistent and persistent.
“We work on the assumption that (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) is coming after America every day,” the officials said. These are “extremists who joined a violent death cult. Their goal is to martyr themselves.”
They also said Al Qaeda has been able to leverage the Arab Spring movement in which Arab citizens revolted against governments in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, making sizeable gains since March of 2011.
U.S. officials say there is now a significant presence in six Yemen provinces, centered around Abyan in the south and compared to three provinces a year ago.
In recent weeks, the Yemeni military has been able to bring the group’s expansion to a temporary halt. U.S. officials described this development as positive news.
The officials also said Saudi-born Ibrahim al-Asiri is the top bomb technician and that he is actively training replacements. They said the training is to avoid “a single point of failure” should he be taken out.
Fox News was told that four significant plots, including two targeting the U.S. airline and cargo industry, were developed in the group’s safe haven. Read the rest of this entry »
The unfolding terrorist plot is a reminder that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has a sanctuary in Yemen, remains determined to attack the United States. Though targeted strikes have killed key AQAP leaders, the strikes have not fully disrupted its external operations. AQAP has benefitted from the successes of its insurgent arm, Ansar al Sharia, which is fighting to regain control of territory in the south.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) attempted to attack the United States. U.S. officials reported that a plot to detonate a bomb aboard a U.S.-bound airplane has been thwarted. The explosive device, seized in the last ten days outside of Yemen, is a more sophisticated version of the 2009 underwear bomb built by AQAP’s top bomb maker, Ibrahim al Asiri. Authorities allegedly detected the plot in April.
Ansar al Sharia militants are contesting the Yemeni military’s control of territory in Abyan governorate, despite reports that Yemeni troops had secured areas of Zinjibar. Militants attacked an army base southwest of Zinjibar Monday morning, killing at least 20 Yemeni soldiers and injuring dozens more. The militants also captured over two dozen troops. Two months ago, an attack killed over 100 soldiers. Last Thursday, Ansar al Sharia attacked a Yemeni military position near Bajdar, outside of Zinjibar. Clashes are also occurring outside of Lawder in Abyan, where militants continue to attack Yemeni army positions.
An airstrike reportedly killed AQAP operative Fahd al Quso Sunday. Quso, who was connected to the USS Cole bombing, was killed in Wadi Rafad in Shabwah governorate along with his companion, Nasser Lakdam. Ansar al Sharia confirmed Quso’s death. Popular Resistance Committees of civilian pro-government fighters reportedly killed AQAP member Bassam al Sayed in the Radfan area of Lahij governorate on May 7. Yemeni airstrikes have targeted militant positions in Lawder in Abyan governorate, killing five militants Saturday. Airstrikes also reportedly targeted militant positions Jaar on May 2 and in Mudia in Abyan on April 26.
American counterterrorism strategy in Yemen relies on the local military to contain Ansar al Sharia, an insurgent wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But Yemen is losing ground to Ansar al Sharia, which has expanded its foothold in southern Yemen. Newly-elected President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi must unify the fractured armed forces under his command; he has begun to do so by dismissing select commanders loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Hadi’s success or failure in restructuring the Yemeni military will have dangerous implications for the country’s ability to prevail against Ansar al Sharia and AQAP, thought to be al Qaeda’s most dangerous branch, and thereby America’s ability to effect its security interests in the region.
President Hadi released a list of military and political appointments on April 6, 2012 that strikes at Saleh’s patronage network. Some of the holdover military commanders had reportedly acted to handicap the fight against Ansar al Sharia and destabilize the Hadi government. The decrees removed Saleh’s half-brother and nephew from command positions and rearranged leadership in the Army and Navy. But Saleh figures remain in positions of power, most notably Saleh’s son Ahmed, head of the elite Republican Guard.
Restructuring the military is a pillar of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal of November 2011, which dictates that the government must “integrate the armed forces under unified, national and professional leadership.” The GCC announced its support for the appointments the day after their issue, saying that they complied with the terms of the GCC deal.
The backlash from Saleh’s men has already affected the military. Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar, dismissed commander of the Air Force, threatened to shoot down planes at Sana’a airport. Armed men loyal to Saleh shut down the Sana’a airport for a day. Rumors of other commanders refusing the changes have surfaced since the decrees. It is unclear how the military will weather this unrest; its strength has already been sapped by a year of defections and mutiny. It is crucial to U.S. interests that Hadi bring the armed forces to bear, because without a unified Yemeni military, the fight against AQAP will fail.
Click graphic to enlarge.
The April 6 decrees included the removal of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s half-brother Mohammed al Ahmar and nephew Tareq Mohammed Saleh from command of the Air Force and Presidential Guard respectively, along with several brigade commanders. But key figures, including Saleh’s son, remain in high military positions.
By: Murad Batal Al-Shishani
Full article available on mlm.jamestown.org
Unlike most of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) releases, the death of Tariq al-Dhahab was confirmed by al-Fajr Media Centre, al-Qaeda’s official media arm, instead of Al-Malhim, AQAP’s media arm. This could represent a new effort designed to centralize the “condolence” statements and messages of the al-Qaeda affiliated groups.
At 35 years old, al-Dhahab was a tribal strongman, Anwar al-Awlaki’s brother-in-law, and the leader of AQAP’s newly formed “Ansar al-Shari’a” in al-Bayda Governorate. The stated aim of Ansar al-Shari’a is to implement Shari’a in various areas of Yemen. On February 16, 2012, al-Dhahab was reportedly killed by his half-brother Hizzam al-Dhahab (Ma’rib Press, February 16). Hizzam was accused of receiving orders from Yemeni authorities to attack his brother.  In ordering Tariq al-Shabab’s death, Yemeni authorities were trying to exploit an old tribal rift in the leadership of the al-Dhahab clan.
Hizzam al-Dhahab, who supported Yemeni authorities and the Saleh regime, fundamentally disagreed with Tariq’s ties to AQAP. With Tariq’s death Hizzam, his older brother, temporarily held leadership of the Yemeni city of Rada’a. Tariq’s AQAP affiliates were quick to retaliate to the killing of Tariq. They initiated an attack on Hizzam al-Dhahab’s home, killing Hizzam by planting a car bomb. Hizzam was dead less than twenty-four hours after the attack and death of his brother Tariq.
In the al-Fajr Media Centre statement AQAP said: “Sheikh Tariq al-Dhahab…was the first among tribes that resorted to rule and judge by Shari’a. His home was a shelter for those oppressed and the refuge of the needing persons.” Among other laudatory mentions, the statement described al-Dhahab as wise, patient, polite and brave. 
AQAP Affiliate Not Member
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s statement and the prompt revenge they conducted show the importance of al-Dhahab to them, although he was not a formal member of AQAP as many media outlets have suggested. 
Al-Dhahab’s connection to AQAP as an affiliate became apparent in mid-January 2012 when fighters led by him seized the al-Amiriyah historical site and announced Shari’a rule in the city of Rada’a, Yemen. Al-Dhahab later withdrew from the city following a tribal mediation that led to the release of his brother, Nabil al-Dhahab, and AQAP members held by Yemeni authorities.
Nabil was arrested by Syrian authorities in 2006 while travelling to Iraq to join the jihadi fight against American troops. Syria repatriated Nabil to Yemen. Tariq then sought Nabil’s release from the custody of Yemeni authorities. In 2007, Tariq appealed to Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, asking him to release Nabil with the threat that his tribe, “Qaifah” – one of the largest in Yemen, will do what it takes to release their sons.  Later, in return for Nabil’s freedom, Tariq agreed to withdraw AQAP troops from Rada’a but he reneged on this agreement.
Nabil al-Dhahab and Kaid al-Dhahab, Tariq and Hizzam’s brothers, are said to be taking steps to consolidate Rada’a in the wake of the family massacre. Tariq al-Dhahab was accused on multiple occasions of being a puppet of Saleh and executing his policies in order to send a message to the West that the alternative to his regime is al-Qaeda. Tariq denied the allegations, retorting that he could not be aligned with a regime that “imprisons our children, is loyal to the U.S. and does not rule by Shari’a.” 
AQAP Integration into Yemeni Tribes
Tariq al-Dhahab’s strongest link to AQAP was his relation to American-born Yemeni cleric and prominent AQAP leader Anwar al-Awlaki (killed in September 2011) who was married to al-Dhahab’s sister.  Read the rest of this entry »
Yemen’s violent unrest continues ahead of the scheduled presidential election, which opposition groups will boycott. Al Qaeda-linked militants in south Yemen continue to assert control over seized territory.
Al Qaeda-linked militants executed men accused of assisting the United States. A Yemeni security official reported that the executions occurred in Azzan in Shabwah governorate and in Jaar in Abyan governorate. Residents reported that two Saudis and a Yemeni were beheaded at dawn; a spokesman for the militants denied that any were Saudi citizens. The three were accused of planting electronic devices that sent information on militant positions. Ansar al Sharia, an insurgent al Qaeda-linked organization, seized control of Jaar in March 2011 and al Qaeda militants operate openly in Azzan.
Violence has broken out at election protests. In Aden, a group of southern separatists set fire to an anti-government protest camp in Crater district late Saturday. Many protesters see the February 21 presidential election as a mechanism of formally removing President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power. The Southern Movement remains factionalized, and three separate factions denounced the violence. Two people were killed at a Southern Movement march protesting the election in Dhaleh Thursday. The sole candidate for the election, Vice President Abdul Rab Mansour al Hadi, announced that he will pursue reconciliation with the separatists and the al Houthis, who have also called for election boycotts.
Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
The historical Radda castle, above, was overtaken by al-Qaida militants on Sunday.
SANAA, Yemen — Islamist militants have seized full control of a town southeast of Yemen’s capital, raising their flag over the citadel, overrunning army positions, storming the local prison and pledging allegiance to al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, residents said Monday.
The capture of Radda in Bayda province, some 100 miles south of capital Sanaa, underscores the growing strength of al-Qaida in Yemen as it continues to take advantage of the weakness of a central government struggling to contain nearly a year of massive political unrest.