Defeating Ansar al Sharia, even with tribal support, required significant Yemeni troop deployment

July 25, 2012

Map: Yemen Army Deployments in Abyan and Shabwah

Defeating Ansar al Sharia, even with tribal support, required significant Yemeni troop deployment. At least thirteen brigades were fully or partially deployed alongside local security forces to support tribal militias before the successes in Zinjibar, Jaar, Shaqra, and Azzan in June 2012. President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi presented accolades to over 20 security organizations for the campaign in the south on June 15, 2012.[1] The 25th Mechanized and 111th Infantry Brigades were struggling in Abyan in the fall of 2011. The 25th brigade fell under an Ansar al Sharia siege in October of 2012 and the 111th Brigade struggled with frequent attacks from Ansar al Sharia militants and local tribesmen.[2] A number of brigades, including the 39th Armored, the 119th Infantry, the 201st Mechanized, and the 115th Infantry, were sent to reinforce fighting in Zinjibar in 2011, but the military was still unable to retake the Ansar al Sharia strongholds. The 135th was deployed to reinforce the forces in Zinjibar in April of 2012, when the tide finally began to turn in favor of the Yemeni army.[3] The 26th Republican Guard Brigade and 2nd Mountain Infantry Brigade, formerly in Sana’a, moved to the assistance of the 111th in Lawder, a city in northeastern Abyan which suffered from frequent militant attacks, and Shaqra, a coastal city that fell under Ansar al Sharia control, in May and June of 2012.[4] Lawder and Shaqra were retaken in May and June, respectively. The army recaptured Azzan, an inland Shawbah city that had fallen under Ansar al Sharia control, with the assistance of two brigades sent from Ataq to clear the city in June 2012.

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“Governor of Lahij and leader of the Southern Military Zone welcomes the 135th Infantry Brigade,” 26 September, April 23, 2012 [Arabic]. Available:

“20 Al Qaeda Members and 7 Soldiers Killed in Violent Clashes on the Outskirts of Jaar,” al Masdar Online, May 30, 2012 [Arabic]. Available:

“201st Mechanized Brigade begins the year of combat and operation training and psychological preparations for 2012,” 26 September, January 21, 2012 [Arabic]. Available:

“Tens of militants killed including militants’ leaders in Dofes and Abyan, tribes demand that the Southern Military Zone stop conspiring against ’25,’” Mareb Press, July 23, 2011 [Arabic]. Available:

“115th Infantry Brigade in al Jawf without leaders while youth movement assumes protection of government defections,” al Masdar Online, March 21, 2011 [Arabic]. Available:

“News that al Qaeda has taken over one of the 115th brigade's camps near Zinjibar,” al Tagheer, March 4, 2012 [Arabic]. Available:

Tom Finn, “Both al-Qaeda and Saleh Cast Shadows over 'New' Yemen,” Time, March 10, 2012. Available:,8599,2108729,00.html

“Twenty-four killed, 55 wounded during fights between al Qaeda and army in Abyan,” al Masdar Online, August 23, 2011 [Arabic]. Available:

“Army and security units and Popular Committees are about to clear Azzan of terrorist al Qaeda elements,” SABA, June 23, 2012 [Arabic]. Available:

“The Army and Popular Resistance Committees control Shaqra in Abyan,” SABA, June 15, 2012 [Arabic]. Available:

Sadeq Al-Faqih, “CTU Leader in Abyan to the Yemen Times ‘Somalis, Saudis and Sudanese Fight For Ansar Al-Sharia in Abyan,’” Yemen Times, May 28, 2012. Available:

“Funeral for martyrs of duty from the 3rd mountain infantry brigade and the 25th mechanized brigade,” SABA, August 3, 2011 [Arabic]. Available:

“Mahdi Makwala still leader of the Southern Military Zone,” al Masdar Online, June 13, 2009 [Arabic].

Ahmed al Haj, “140 dead in al-Qaida attack on Yemen army,” Associated Press, March 5, 2012. Available:,7340,L-4198934,00.html

[1] “President of the Republic awards medal of courage to a number of military and security units and popular committees and local leaders in Abyan, Lahij and al Bayda,” SABA, June 15, 2012 [Arabic]. Available:
[2] “Military sources: Attacks from three sides on the 25th Mechanized Brigade of the Yemeni army in Abyan and siege of the governor’s house,” al Tagheer, October 19, 2011 [Arabic]. Available:
“Tribal mediation manages to free prisoners of the Jaadana tribe and the 111th Brigade in Abyan,” al Masdar Online, April 18, 2011 [Arabic]. Available:
[3] Sasha Gordon, “Map: Forces Operating in South Yemen,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, March 22, 2012. Available:
[4] “Helicopters bomb Nihm, 26th Republican Guard brigade falls to tribes,” Mareb Press, March 27, 2011 [Arabic]. Available:
“Funeral for martyrs of duty from the armed and security forces,” SABA, December 9, 2011 [Arabic]. Available:
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