Yemeni

Gulf of Aden Security Review – June 12, 2012

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Jaar-sm

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.[1]
  • 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.[2]
  • 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.[3]

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.[4]
  • 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.[5]

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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 »