The threat to the Yemeni government from Ansar al Sharia and AQAP has increased with the spread of Ansar al Sharia’s insurgency into al Bayda governorate. The counter-insurgency fight may not receive the necessary attention from the Yemeni government as challenges to its authority from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh grow.
Ansar al Sharia has claimed credit for terrorist attacks throughout Yemen. Militants set alight six shipments of oil in Hura in Hadramawt governorate on March 11. In al Bayda, a suicide car bombing at a checkpoint on March 13 killed at least four Yemeni soldiers. Militants then opened fire and claim to have killed over twenty Republican Guard troops. The Yemeni military claimed to have killed the local Ansar al Sharia leader in a reprisal attack. Ansar al Sharia also claimed credit for the murder of Joel Shrum, an American teaching English at a vocational school in Taiz. The militants accused Shrum of proselytizing. [Post obtained and translated by SITE.]
Ansar al Sharia militants continue to hold Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan governorate, and surrounding territory. The Yemeni military responded to the March 4 attack in al Kod with a series of raids on militant positions over the past two weeks, including airstrikes on a captured military base in Zinjibar on March 10 and strikes near Jaar on March 11. The Yemeni navy reportedly fired sea-to-land missiles at a militant convoy between Jaar and Zinjibar on March 13. The Yemeni army has also used artillery strikes to target militant positions within Zinjibar city.
The deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Said al Shihri, called for action against Shiite influence in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province and urged Sunnis to come to Yemen to participate in jihad. Shihri focused on Iranian activities in Qatif and said, “Here is Iran assembling its tails in the region from Bahrain to Syria, and from Qatif to Sa’ada, to wage war against Islam.” Shihri further called for fighters to defend shari’a from “America and its riffraff” who would fight to destroy it in Aden-Abyan. [Video obtained and translated by SITE.]
Political jockeying between President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh may slow the implementation of Yemeni reforms. Saleh demanded that his political rivals also depart Yemen – for stability’s sake – on March 14 and has become increasing vocal in his opposition to Hadi’s decisions. Saleh, who remains the head of the ruling General People’s Congress party, threatened to withdraw party members from the new national unity government and, according to Hadi’s spokesman, has threatened to imprison Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Saleh Basindwah. Hadi, in turn, has considered dismissing the government because of Saleh’s continued influence over the Yemeni Cabinet.
There is increasing concern over Iranian activity in Yemen. American officials allege that Iran has supplied the al Houthi rebels in north Yemen with automatic rifles, grenade launchers, material for bomb-making, and millions of dollars in cash. The New York Times also reported that a Yemeni official accused Iran of trying send material for explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) through Aden. Further, Iran offered financial aid and training to dissidents, hosting figures from Taiz in Iran in the fall. A spokesman for the al Houthis denied that the group has received Iranian arms shipments, but al Houthi leaders have acknowledged receipt of Iranian financial aid.