Yemen: It Was A Very Bad Month For Al Qaeda

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May 10, 2014: It was a bad month for AQAP (al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula). Between April 19 and 21 st at least 60 AQAP men were killed, mostly by American UAV missile attacks but also by Yemeni troops attacking AQAP bases. Another fifty or more Islamic terrorists were killed in the last week as the army began a ground offensive against rural AQAP bases. Since mid-April nearly two hundred AQAP members have been killed and several hundred wounded. Over 200 have been captured and more than a thousand have fled to more remote areas of the south or are trying to get out of Yemen. All known AQAP bases have been captured and intelligence specialists are working overtime processing captured material and the DNA of the dead. This last activity has confirmed the deaths of several senior AQAP leaders and technical experts.  In the last week AQAP has begun acknowledging the loss of some of its leaders in these recent attacks. The AQAP bases attacked were the ones the Islamic terrorists had fled to after their defeat in 2012. That led to them being chased out of several southern towns and cities and forced back into rural bases. From there AQAP has been launching terror attacks and assassinations throughout the south. This new offensive is apparently meant to weaken AQAP still further and it appears to be succeeding.

Soldiers and police are establishing checkpoints and small bases in the rural areas of the south (Abyan and Shabwa provinces) where the recently captured AQAP bases were. This is to prevent hundreds of AQAP men who fled further into the mountains from returning. The Islamic terrorists up in the hills are short on food and other supplies and will have to come down for essentials if they are to survive.

AQAP was formed in 2009 when al Qaeda was effectively driven out of Saudi Arabia after losing a war with the government triggered by the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. AQAP initially consisted of remnants of the Saudi al Qaeda organization (several thousand full and part time members) who fled to Yemen and merged with the Yemeni al Qaeda branch. AQAP also benefitted from hundreds of Iraqi al Qaeda members who arrived after the defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq in 2007-8. Growing unrest in Yemen (against the long-time Saleh dictatorship) enabled AQAP to recruit locally and take over several towns in the south by 2011. Then the government launched a counteroffensive in 2012 and year AQAP got hurt very badly. A thousand or so AQAP survivors established new bases deeper in the rural areas of the south and this was watched, and sometimes attacked with missiles, by the growing number of American UAVs operating in Yemen. At the same time there were few other places for defeated al Qaeda men to flee to. The sanctuary in Mali was destroyed in early 2013 by a French led offensive. The sanctuary in Pakistan (North Waziristan) was increasingly hostile to al Qaeda and mainly for local Islamic terrorists. Surviving al Qaeda men are increasingly operating in isolation and under heavy attack and many simply went home and abandoned Islamic terrorist activity, at least for the moment. While the al Qaeda situation is desperate in Yemen, AQAP was still al Qaeda’s most capable branch after 2012. Now AQAP is much less capable. The U.S. and Yemen both wanted AQAP further reduced in strength in order to halt the growing number of terror attacks in Yemen and the growing threat of attacks overseas. The current offensive was apparently planned to set AQAP back but it will be weeks or months before the extent of the damage is known.

May 9, 2014: In the south (Abyan and Shabwa provinces) troops killed eleven Islamic terrorists. This included defeating an AQAP effort to ambush a convoy carrying the Defense Minister who was there to inspect a captured Islamic terrorist base. The ambush failed leaving three Islamic terrorists dead and two captured. Three soldiers were wounded and several Islamic terrorists got away, some of them wounded.  In the capital another clash left three Islamic terrorists and four police dead when a checkpoint near the presidential palace was attacked. 

May 8, 2014: Britain advised its citizens to avoid visiting Yemen until the current Islamic terrorist threat (revenge attacks because of recent AQAP defeats) were over. NGOs have also ordered their foreign staff to stay off the streets for a while. AQAP is particularly keen on killing or kidnapping foreigners right now because that gets the most international media attention and diverts media attention from the heavy losses AQAP has recently suffered.  This is bad for AQAP’s image and hurts fund raising and recruiting.

May 7, 2014: In the capital police killed senior AQAP leader Wael al Waeli and one of his subordinates while capturing another. Waeli was in charge of attacks on Western targets as well as Westerners in Yemen. Waeli has long been sought by the police.

The U.S. announced that its embassy would be temporarily closed because of the surge of Islamic terrorist attacks (in response to heavy losses recently inflicted on AQAP). These terrorist attacks have largely failed, but because of the large number of Yemeni civilians who regularly visit the American embassy it was thought best to close for a while to avoid the possibility of large civilian losses during even a failed attack.

May 6, 2014: In the south (the mountainous al Mahfad area of Abyan province) troops entered the largest known AQAP base in the area. Elsewhere in the south (Shabwa province) artillery killed two Islamic terrorists when a compound used by AQAP was hit.

Saudi Arabia revealed that in early April it had broken up an ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria) operation inside Saudi Arabia. The group had 62 members (59 Saudis, a Yemeni, a Pakistani and a Palestinian) who were planning several attacks and assassinations in Saudi Arabia. So far 35 of the 62 have been arrested and the rest are being sought.

May 4, 2014: In the south (Shabwa province) an overnight operation on an AQAP base left 43 terrorists and six soldiers dead. Many AQAP vehicles, weapons and other equipment was captured or destroyed. Many of the AQAP dead were identified as foreigners (Saudis, Afghans, Somalis and Chechens).

May 3, 2014: In the southeast (Hadramout province) a car bomb went off outside an army base wounding two soldiers and a civilian. Elsewhere in the south (Abyan province) an army raid left four Islamic terrorists dead. Artillery and aerial bombs were also used.

May 2, 2014: In the south (Aden) al Qaeda gunmen killed an army colonel. Meanwhile a four day old offensive in Abyan and Shabwa provinces kept taking AQAP bases and killing or scattering the Islamic terrorists living there.

May 1, 2014: AQAP denied government claims that 70 percent of AQAP members were foreigners. This is embarrassing because AQAP presents itself as an organization of Arabs from Arabia fighting to impose a religious dictatorship in the region. But Yemen has become a refuge for foreign Islamic terrorists who have fled counter-terror operations in their home countries. AQAP does not deny that some of its members are foreigners, but insists the 70 percent figure is way too high. The government makes a more compelling case because they name names.

April 30, 2014:  In the south (Shabwa province) AQAP killed three of 15 soldiers they had captured on April 29th.

April 29, 2014: The army began a major ground offensive against AQAP bases in the south (Abyan and Shabwa provinces).

April 28, 2014: In the capital a German diplomat was wounded while escaping a kidnapping attempt.

April 27, 2014: In the south (the port city of Mukalla) thousands of people demonstrated in favor of establishing a separate state of South Yemen.

April 26, 2014: In the capital army commandos conducted raids on several known or suspected AQAP safe houses.  

April 22, 2014:  At captured AQAP camps American military personnel have been spotted helping with the search for documents and other AQAP items that could provide more insight into AQAP membership and plans. Several major AQAP bases have recently been captured and there is a lot of material to sort through.

In the last 24 hours AQAP death squads have killed four security personnel in the capital using individual attacks. AQAP is trying to take the media edge off recent AQAP defeats with these killings.

April 21, 2014: In the last three days a series of U.S. UAV missile strikes have left over 60 AQAP members dead and several AQAP compounds overrun by soldiers and being scoured for information about terrorist operations.

April 20, 2014: In the south (Shabwa province) AQAP gunmen briefly captured and used a hospital to treat many of the Islamic terrorists wounded in recent attacks. AQAP brought in some of its own members who were medical personnel but needed the hospital facilities to save or stabilize some of the wounded.

 

 

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