Category Archives: Yemen

More Attacks in Yemen, Houthis Gain Greater Control of State Institutions

Posted on in Yemen title_rule

18 December- In the third attack in two days, suicide bombers detonated two car bombs in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida. Nine people, including the two attackers were killed, and at least 15 others were wounded. Three additional suspected suicide bombers were killed by local security forces before they were able to detonate their explosives. On Twitter, Yemen’s al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Sharia has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
A day earlier, two suicide car bombers rammed their vehicles into a Shiite rebels’ checkpoint and a house south of Sana’a as a school bus was travelling nearby. The detonation killed 31 people, including at least 20 primary school students, all under the age of 12. Witnesses reported that the car appeared to be loaded with potatoes which concealed the explosives hidden underneath. The car bomber arrived at a checkpoint manned by rebels and blew up the vehicle as a student bus was passing, filled with female primary school students. Immediately after the attack, rebel troops brought four pickup trucks to transport the bodies, while ambulances assisted the wounded. Witnesses state that body parts were strewn throughout the street, along with open bags of potatoes. The Houthis called the attack “the ugliest crime against childhood.” Later, a second car bomber targeted the home of a Shiite rebel leader Abdullah Idris. The attack marked the second time Idris’ residence had been targeted.

Houthis Gain Political Control

Yemen has been tumultuous since September, when rebel Shiite Houthi fighters captured Sana’a and forced Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa and his government to step down. The Houthis have become the de facto power base in Yemen, expanding control into areas south and west of Sana’a. The rebels are fighting two battles; on one front, they have engaged in several clashes with al Qaeda, driving them out of several strongholds. On the other front, they are battling the current Yemeni government, who they accuse of rampant embezzlement and corruption. On Tuesday, the power struggle between the Houthis and the Yemeni government came to a head as the rebels gained an increasing grip on state-run institutions.
On 16 December, Houthi rebels surrounded the Ministry of Defence, preventing the Minister of Defence from accessing his office, and Houthi fighters broke into the offices of al-Thawra newspaper to demand the dismissal of the Editor-in-Chief, Faisal Markam. The group claimed to be following orders from Houthi leader, Abdelmalek al-Huthi, who said to “to end corruption in all state institutions”. A day later, Houthi fighters seized control of Yemen’s Central Bank and the Department of Civil Status and Civil Registration. Militants sealed off the Central Bank, preventing employees from entering or leaving the premises. The Houthis believe Hadi is illegally using government funds to finance media outlets affiliated with his son. Houthis also seized control of the headquarters of SAFER, Yemen’s largest state-run oil and gas company.
On Thursday, Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah’s cabinet won a parliamentary vote of confidence. Bahah’s government, composed of technocrats and politicians from a range of parties, has the broad support of the Houthis but relations are not easy. Bahah suggested on Wednesday his government could resign after the rebels raided state institutions and sacked public officials. Strengthened by the vote, the government must now move forward gingerly, striking a balance between working with the Shiite Houthi rebels while avoiding sectarian strife with the Sunni majority. The Bahah government must also develop a strategy to deal with security threats from al-Qaeda militants and their affiliated tribal groups, as well as southern separatist movements.

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AQAP takes responsibility for Double Suicide Bombing

Posted on in Terrorism, Yemen title_rule

9 December- A double suicide bombing occurred at the First Military Command base in Seyoun, Yemen. Seyoun is the capital city of Yemen’s Hadramout province. Sources indicated that the two attackers attempted to get into the base to detonate vehicle borne IEDs. Soldiers attempted to prevent the vehicles from entering, however one car bomb exploded at the bases gate. The other vehicle detonated inside the compound. Four people were killed and eight were wounded.

The first vehicle was driven Humam al Qarqa al Awlaki, who detonated a Suzuki Vitara filled with half a ton of explosives at the base’s gate around 8:40 a.m. About two minutes later, Nasser bin Ganam al Si’ri detonated a Toyota Hilux carrying 1.25 tons of explosives inside the command headquarters.

A Twitter account affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released a tweet claiming responsibility for the bombings. The tweet also suggested that “tens” of soldiers had been killed and a number of military vehicles were disabled. The group said that their fighters had been monitoring the base; 30 minutes prior to the attacks, a military convoy including high-ranking officials had entered the base.

AQAP released a statement on 9 December which also took credit for the attack of a military truck in al Shihr, about 150 miles south of Seyoun. The attack killed two soldiers and wounded one. AQAP says that soldiers at barracks near the attack fired “randomly” for over an hour after the attack. The group accused the military of damaging a mosque and several “houses of Muslims in the area.” A day earlier, AQAP conducted several bombings in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a targeting the homes of Shiite Houthi leaders. The group conducted three bombings, killing fifteen and wounding 35 Houthis.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for 25 terrorist attacks in Yemen since 1 December, targeting Houthi and military people and facilities. Of the 25, eight attacks, or about 30% were aimed at Yemeni military stationed in the south and east. The remaining 70% have been directed at Houthi leaders or military positions, mainly in Sana’a.

Shiite Houthi fighters have gained traction in their battles against AQAP in recent months. Houthi leaders have captured towns in the South and east that were under the control of AQAP. On 18 November, Houthi fighters pushed AQAP militants out of the south-western strategic town of Rada’a. The town had been under the control of al-Qaeda militants since early 2012. Houthi fighters are now in full control of the strategic town; the group has expressed their preparedness to withdraw from the town when the Yemeni army is able to restore peace and security.

Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has stressed the need for cooperation with the Houthis to restore security to the country. Yemen’s central government has so far failed to confront the terrorist threat. Houthi fighters, however, have intervened to fill the vacuum and driven al-Qaeda militants out of many areas in the country.

In response to the loss strongholds to Shi’ite Houthi fighters, AQAP has accused the Houthis of acting as proxy fighters for the United States and threatened renewed violence against them. In a late-November audio message on jihadist websites, al AQAP’s military commander Qassim al-Raymi said, “You have to know that the mosques of Muslims that you blew up along with their homes and schools, will not just pass unnoticed and you will pay the price dearly.”

AQAP is likely retaliating for military cooperation with the Houthis, and perceived cooperation with the United States. On 4 December, the group released a video featuring a hostage American photo-journalist Luke Somers. The group threatened to kill Somers if the US government did not give in to various demands. On 6 December, during an attempted rescue mission by US security forces in Shabwa, Somers was killed, along with a South African hostage.

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Yemeni Forces Free Hostages; Security Breach at Sana’a Embassy

Posted on in Yemen title_rule

25 November– In an overnight operation, Yemeni Special Forces freed eight hostages who had been held by a group tied to al-Qaeda in Lahji province, Southern Yemen. Seven of the kidnappers were reportedly killed in the operation.

Sources state that seven Yemeni nationals were released, along with an eighth foreign national. The Yemeni Supreme Security Committee did not disclose the nationality of the foreign hostage. Sources suggest the victim was a US military instructor who worked at al-Anad Air Base, nearly 37 miles north of Aden. However senior US defence officials have denied these reports. In 2012, the US resumed on-the-ground military training in an attempt to arm Yemeni security forces in the fight against al Qaeda. It is believed that the rescue operation took place near the base. One member of the Yemeni Special Forces was lightly wounded in the mission.

Kidnapping has become increasingly common in Yemen. In recent years, Al Qaeda has taken advantage of the “hostage black market” in which they outsource the seizing of hostages to regional tribes, gangs or affiliates, who are in turn, paid a commission. This practice has been used by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, which is regarded as one of the most active al Qaeda branches in the world. AQAP has been known to work with local tribes that abduct victims for financial benefit. Al Qaeda collects the hostages and seeks to negotiate for ransom. Further, political kidnapping has occurred in instances where tribesmen kidnap victims in an attempt to resolve disputes with the government.

Meanwhile, a potential security breach has been reported at the US Embassy in Yemen. A corrupt worker is believed to have taken bribes and processed as many as 50 fraudulent visas, allowing applicants to enter the United States with falsified documents. The documents claim that the applicants were to travel to Houston for an oil industry conference. The State Department investigation reveals that the oil companies listed on the applications were fictitious, and none of the applicants attended the ‘Offshore Technology Conference’ after travelling to the US. The whereabouts of the Yemeni nationals are unknown. Further, the true purpose of their entry to the US is unclear; speculation ranges from attempts to conduct terrorist operations in the US, to fleeing from a war torn nation. It is unknown whether the entrants pose a risk to national security.

The visas were issued at the US embassy in Sana’a. A legal complaint lists a single defendant, who was discovered working in a grocery store in the Bronx, New York. He has been arrested on fraud charges and is held without bail.

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Egypt, Gulf States in Advanced Talks for Military Alliance

Posted on in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen title_rule

3 November– Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are in discussions to develop a military agreement to combat Islamic militants, with the possibility of a joint force to intervene around the Middle East. The Sunni-dominated nations share a view that the region is threatened by Sunni Islamic militants and Islamist political movements. The military pact goes beyond the current engagements in Iraq and Syria as part of the US-led coalition; aiming to target additional hotbeds of extremist activity. The alliance would focus on Libya and Yemen, where radicalised militants have seized control of territories from their respective governments. Egyptian President Abel Fattah el-Sisi has warned that extremists must be dealt with in several places, and that would require “a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy in the region.” Jordan and Algeria have also been approached to join the alliance.

While the talks remain secret, unnamed Egyptian officials have reported that the discussions are in advanced stages. The alliance is considering the establishment of a core force made up of elite troops, aircrafts, and an intelligence service comprised of members of the alliance. The nations have already held bilateral and multilateral war games the past year in advance of an alliance. Reportedly, there remain differences regarding the size of force, funding, location of headquarters, and whether to seek Arab League or U.N. political cover for operations. If the joint forces cannot be agreed upon, the alliance still aims to coordinate military action for pinpoint anti-militant operations. It is thought that actions such as these have already taken place; Egypt and the UAE are believed to have conducted targeted airstrikes in Libya over the summer, and Egypt has reportedly carried out unilateral strikes in Libya; although the Egyptian government denies involvement in either operation.

The alliance is being discussed as violent clashes intensify in Benghazi as the Libyan army attempts to retake areas seized by Islamist militants. On Monday, extremist fighters hit an oil tanker with a rocket propelled grenade, causing fire and major disruption at Benghazi’s port. The Libyan army asked residents in the central al-Sabri district to evacuate ahead of a major military operation. Over 200 people have been killed and several homes destroyed since the Libyan army began its offensive in October, yet residents are fearful of getting caught in crossfire while travelling.

Libya is currently divided by rival governments. The internationally recognized and recently elected government has taken shelter in Tobruk; Islamist militias that overran Tripoli during the summer have reinstituted the previous Islamist government in Tripoli. The nation is also facing a surplus of warring militias and militant groups, and has become a safe-haven for radicalised fighters.

In Yemen, where the government has been battling one of al-Qaeda’s most active branches for years, the government is also contending with Houthi Shiite rebels. The Houthis successfully overran Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, last month. Saudi Arabia has offered support against the Houthis in 2010, believing that the Shiite Houthis are serving as proxy fighters for Iran.

Pan Arab alliances in the past have not succeeded. However the impetus is strong for the coalition. Saudi Arabia and Egypt face a growing militant threat within their borders, and Gulf nations are eager to keep militant threats away from their borders and foreign interests. The multi-national alliance is also intended to serve as a symbol of unity and strength against the perceived influence of Iran. The nations will seek a nod of approval from the US, however Washington has not yet been privy to the talks.

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Houthi Leader Declares Successful Revolution in Yemen

Posted on in Yemen title_rule

24 September- Abdul Malik al-Houthi, leader of Yemen’s Shia Houthi rebels, has announced a “successful revolution” as Houthi supporters have taken key parts of Sana’a, forcing the government to “answer to popular demands.” The Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels agreed to a UN brokered deal after weeks of violence that left over 200 people dead in Yemen’s capital.

UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, announced Saturday that the deal was reached after “intense consultations with all the political parties”, including the Houthi rebels. He adds that the treaty would be a “national document that will advance the path of peaceful change, and will lay the foundations for national partnership and for security and stability in the country.”

While the details were not released, it is expected that a new government will be formed in coming days. The Houthis have been invited to play a role in the formation of the new government. In addition, Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi also agreed to reverse an unpopular decision to remove fuel subsidies.


The Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), are a rebel movement stemming from a branch of Shia Islam known as Zaidism.  The name “Houthi” originates from the group’s first leader, Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi, who led the rebel group’s uprising in 2004, with the aims of obtaining greater autonomy in the Saada province of Northern Yemen and protection of Zaidi traditions, which were perceived as threatened by Sunni encroachment. Zaidis comprise a third of Yemen’s population, and ruled North Yemen for nearly a millennia until 1962.When Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi and was killed by Yemen’s military in 2004, his family took over operations.

At first glance, it appears as though the fighting is based in the broader Shi’a-Sunni divide, however the battles are more accurately defined as localised war with a regional and cultural dimensions. Over the past two years, Houthi appeal has spread beyond the Zaidi population, and they have grown to become Yemen’s most popular opposition group, gaining support from Salafi and tribal members. Currently, Houthi rebels and supporters carry enough power to impose their desires on the government and the Yemeni population.

The most recent rebellion began in mid August, after Abdul Malik al-Houthi called upon President Hadi to reverse his decision to remove fuel subsidies. Hadi’s unpopular and poorly implemented decision to raise the cost of fuel had an immediate and detrimental impact Yemen’s poor. By 18 August, the Houthi rebels had set up armed protest camps around Sana’s, and al-Houthi called for replacing the government with a new body that was representative of Yemen’s various factions.

Under pressure, on 2 September, Hadi agreed to dismiss his government, reduce fuel prices by 30%, and allow for appointment of a new prime minister. Hadi agreed that the various Yemeni factions could submit nominations from within their own ranks. The Houthis rejected this move, calling it ‘insufficient’. A week later, security forces clashed with Houthi supporters in Sana’a, resulting in several deaths. Negotiations were suspended on 15 September but resumed days later.

Weekend clashes

On Thursday 18 September, the Houthis began a four-day onslaught through areas of Sana’a. While According to witnesses, clashes initially centred on the campus of Al-Iman University, a stronghold of Sunni Islamists. By Saturday, the group had taken over state television headquarters in Sana’a, pulling broadcasts off the air and trapping employees in the building. The group also seized government headquarters and overran a military camp, as well as homes belonging to Yemeni General Ali Mushin al-Ahmar, and tribal sheiks loyal to him. Al-Ahmar is the former head of the disbanded (yet still operational) First Armoured Division, and has led Yemeni forces in clashes against the Houthis since their inception. The General appears to have escaped the fighting; his whereabouts are unknown.

On Saturday, Yemen’s Supreme Security Commission imposed an after dark curfew in parts of Sana’a. The Ministry of Education announced school closures until fighting subsided, and the Yemeni Defence Ministry has put security forces on high alert. Meanwhile, on the Interior Ministry’s website, Interior Minister Hussein al-Terb urged security forces to “cooperate” with the Houthis “to strengthen security and stability, preserve public property and guard government installations… and to consider Ansar Allah friends of the police”.

On Sunday, Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa resigned amid peace talks. In his resignation letter he states, “The partnership between myself and the president in leading the country only lasted for a short period, before it was replaced by autocracy to the extent that the government and I no longer knew anything about the military and security situation.”

Despite the confusion and violence, the fragile peace agreement was signed on Sunday. The deal essentially gives the Houthi rebels a greater stake in mainstream politics. Under the UN-backed deal, Yemen will form a new government, and the Houthis and southern separatists will nominate a new prime minister. Al-Houthi stated, “If it is implemented, this agreement will also change the government, which the people called to fall, to fail, because it stood on an unjust, non-consensual basis.” Al-Houthi called for cooperation between the Houthi rebels and Islah, the main Sunni party in Yemen.

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