Ali Abdullah Saleh

Yemen Crisis Situation Reports: Update 138

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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.

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Yemen’s Military Shake-Up: Weakening Ousted Saleh’s Network |

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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).[1] 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.[2] 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.”[3] The GCC announced its support for the appointments the day after their issue, saying that they complied with the terms of the GCC deal.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6] 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.

Military Appointments

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.

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A Post-Mortem Analysis of AQAP Tribal Implementer Tariq al-Dhahab

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Publication: Volume: 3 Issue: 2

By: Murad Batal Al-Shishani

Tariq Al-Dhahab

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. [1] 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. [2]

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. [3]

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. [4] 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.” [5]

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. [6] Read the rest of this entry »

Yemen Crisis Situation Reports: Update 130

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February 13, 2012

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.

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Al-Qaida raises flag over Yemen town, pledges allegiance to terrorist leader

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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.

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Yemen’s Shiite rebels form political party

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chitral

Jan 5, 2012

SANAA // Yemen‘s Shiite rebels has formed a political party in a bid to have role in the government.

The organisers, led by Mohammed Miftah, said the party was not be restricted to any particular sect or a group. Most of the people who attended Al Omah party’s inaugural ceremony were supporters of the Houthis.

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Gulf of Aden Security Review – December 27, 2011

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English: War flag of al-Shabaab
Image via Wikipedia

Yemen: Yemeni President Saleh awaits visa from U.S. for medical care; fighting in Zinjibar between Yemeni soldiers and al Qaeda-linked militants kills five soldiers and four militants; troops loyal to Saleh kill nine “Life March” protesters and injure at least 90 more people in Sana’a; clashes between Islah party backers and al Houthi rebels leaves 20 people injured

Horn of Africa: Kenyan air raids in Badhadhe, Somalia and Kolbio, Kenya reportedly kill over 200 al Shabaab militants; roadside bomb in Boosaaso, Somalia kills at least three security officials; clashes between TFG and al Shabaab in Mogadishu leave one person dead; grenade attack by al Shabaab-linked suspects in Wajir district of Kenya wounds 7 people; landmine near Mogadishu kills one AMISOM soldier and wounds two others; at least 20 al Shabaab militants killed in alleged Kenyan airstrike on Kismayo; clashes between local clan militias and Galmudug forces in Galkayo leave six people dead and 10 wounded; gunman shoots and kills three aid workers in Mataban, Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

  • Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is waiting for the Obama administration to approve his visa request to the U.S. for medical treatment. Officials reported that the conditions for the approval of Saleh’s visa request have not yet been submitted to the American Embassy in Yemen. Another administration official reported that Saleh could potentially arrive to New York-Presbyterian Hospital as early as next week.[1]
  • A military official reported that Yemeni soldiers clashed with al Qaeda-linked militants in Zinjibar in Abyan governorate, killing five soldiers and four militants. Alleged militant hideouts were shelled during the attacks.[2]
  • Local eyewitnesses reported that troops loyal to Saleh fired at and killed nine protesters and 90 others wounded outside of Saleh’s compound in Sana’a on December 24. The protesters were part of a days-long march from Taiz to Sana’a in demand of a trial for Saleh. Following the killings, Yemen’s acting leader Abdul Rab Mansour al Hadi urged Saleh loyalists and rebels to call a truce. U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein told Yemeni journalists that the march was aimed at creating “chaos and violence.”[3]
  • Clashes between members of the Islah party and the al Houthi rebel movement in Sana’a square resulted in 20 injured people. A representative of the al Houthi rebel movement reported that Islah party backers attacked a tent it had pitched to protest the conditions of the deal set to remove Saleh from office.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) reported that air raids carried out by Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) killed over 200 al Shabaab militants in Badhadhe in Gedo region in Somalia and Kolbio in north Kenya on December 24. The air raids were the result of intelligence reports that al Shabaab was on the verge of attacking Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and KDF troops.[5] Read the rest of this entry »