Ansar al Sharia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s insurgent arm, continues to hold territory in south Yemen. Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi has authorized additional forces to be deployed against the militants and has made significant command changes in the military.
Fighting flared in Lawder in northeast Abyan governorate. Ansar al Sharia militants attacked the 111th Infantry Brigade’s base at dawn on April 9. The Republican Guard sent reinforcements from al Bayda to Abyan to support the brigade. Local tribesmen fought alongside Yemeni soldiers against the militants for days. Six days of fighting reportedly killed over two hundred people. A suicide car bombing killed four people and injured another four at an army checkpoint between al Bayda and Abyan governorates Tuesday. President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi authorized the deployment of elite counter-terrorism units to Abyan. Separately, militants attacked a checkpoint outside of Aden April 14. Two suicide bombers died April 7 in Aden when their payload detonated prematurely.
Airstrikes have targeted al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants. A suspected U.S. drone strike reportedly missed AQAP military commander Qasim al Raymi as he was traveling from Shabwah governorate into Ma’rib governorate April 7. Another strike killed three militants in al Zaher district in al Bayda governorate on April 14. A Yemeni government official reported Tuesday that overnight strikes in Kharama area between ‘Azzan and al Hawta in Shabwah killed five militants.
Republican decrees appointed several officials to civilian and military positions April 6. The military appointments removed Air Force commander Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s half-brother, from power and moved the former president’s nephew from head of the Presidential Guard to the Republican Guard’s 37th Armored Brigade. Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar has not fully transferred command and gunmen loyal to him have shut down the Sana’a airport at least once since the decree. The civilian appointments also struck at Saleh’s patronage network, removing, among others, his brother-in-law from a petroleum distribution company. [See Yemen’s Military Shake-Up and CTP’s Yemen Order of Battle for further information.]
The Saudi Embassy in Yemen received a phone call from an al Qaeda militant who issued demands for the release of the Saudi deputy consul kidnapped March 28 in Aden. Mishaal Mohammed Rasheed al Shodoukhi, listed as a wanted al Qaeda operative by Saudi Arabia in 2009, demanded ransom payments and the release of prisoners in exchange for the consul’s freedom.