Critical Threats Today
A regular summary of al Qaeda operations in Yemen and Africa as well as major events in Iran.
These are the major events from March 24 for Iran and for al Qaeda operations in Yemen and Africa. Please see the Iran News Roundup, the Gulf of Aden Security Review, and the weekly Threat Update for more details.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is operating in terrain reported cleared by Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces in southern Yemen.
A reported U.S. airstrike targeted AQAP militants in Ja’ar in Abyan governorate. The forces had claimed to seize control of Ja’ar and begin clearing operations in August 2016. Ja’ar was AQAP’s capital for its self-declared emirate in 2011-2012. AQAP has targeted the leadership of the units operating against it in Abyan, similar to a campaign it conducted in 2012, and may have regained freedom of movement in the area. Some of those units also recently protested the non-payment of their salaries. (Recommended reading: Targeting AQAP: U.S. Airstrikes in Yemen)
Citations & Links
Al Shabaab continued a high-intensity vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) campaign intended to degrade security in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.
Al Shabaab detonated two VBIEDs in Hodan and Hamar Weyne districts in Mogadishu on March 24. Al Shabaab has detonated 11 VBIEDs in Mogadishu in 2017, including five in the last two weeks. This operational tempo indicates significant al Shabaab control in nearby support zones where the group prepares VBIEDs. Al Shabaab’s explosive campaign likely compels the Somali Federal Government (SFG) to redirect security forces inward to protect the capital, allowing al Shabaab to further decrease SFG control by conducting humanitarian and insurgent operations in the Lower Shabelle region. (Related reading: US Counterterrorism Objectives in Somali: Is Mission Failure Likely?)
Citations & Links
The Libyan National Army (LNA) will shift operations away from Benghazi as it takes control of the last remaining militant strongholds in the city.
The LNA Air Force conducted two days of airstrikes against the Mujahideen Shura Council of Derna (MSCD) in Derna, northeastern Libya. It conducted operations against Misratan forces in Sebha, southwestern Libya, in an effort to take control of an airbase and an oil field. The LNA also seeks to take control of an airbase in Jufra, central Libya, from Islamist militias. LNA commander Khalifa Haftar is pursuing a military solution but lacks the forces and popular support required to achieve his objectives on multiple fronts. (Related reading: Ignoring History: America’s Losing Strategy in Libya)