Al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and its insurgent arm, Ansar al Sharia, continue to pose a threat despite announced Yemeni military gains in the south. Ansar al Sharia may reestablish its position if it turns its recent attack on a southern town into a concerted campaign to roll back the Yemeni army’s recent gains. Increased improved explosive device (IED) attacks and assassination attempts indicate that AQAP’s operational network remains functional. Political tensions in the capital, moreover, are spurring violence and endangering the success of the National Dialogue.
Ansar al Sharia militants are still active in Abyan, despite Yemeni claims of victory in the governorate. Insurgents attacked a town in Abyan on the evening of July 25. “Popular Committees” composed of local tribesmen repelled the attack in Batis. Locals interviewed indicated that Ansar al Sharia fighters had remained in the city, which falls less than ten miles north of Ja’ar, after the Yemeni army claimed to have cleared the area in May and June. President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi ordered more troops to the area in response to the raid. Yemeni authorities announced on July 20 that they had cleared 80% of the landmines left by militants in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan governorate and a former Ansar al Sharia stronghold. Meanwhile, airstrikes continue to target Mahfad, the eastern district of Abyan where five Ansar al Sharia militants were killed in a Yemeni Air Force strike on July 23. Airstrikes targeted eastern Abyan again today, killing three militants and injuring seven.
A string of assassination attempts against Yemeni officials are undermining Yemen security. An Aden senior police official was killed when a bomb detonated in his vehicle on July 19. A roadside bomb wounded the commander of the 190th Air Defense Brigade as his convoy passed through al Mukalla, the capital of the eastern governorate of Hadramawt, on July 22. Gunmen killed a security official in the same city on July 24. Two attacks in Taiz targeted officials at the Taiz Central Prison. The first failed to kill the prison director on July 7. The second attempt succeeded in killing the deputy director of the prison on July 16. Gunmen attempted to assassinate Hadi’s press secretary, Yahya al Arasi, on July 23 in Sana’a. A lawmaker survived after he was attacked with a grenade in the southwestern governorate of Ibb on July 29.
Asymmetrical attacks have increased significantly in major cities. At least two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have detonated in Sana’a since the July 11 police academy attack. One exploded prematurely and killed the man preparing it on July 15, and the second bomb killed the son of a prominent anti-AQAP sheikh on July 28. The sheikh, Majid al Dhahab, had a large hand in removing Ansar al Sharia militants from a city in al Baydah governorate in January. Yemeni soldier Fayez al Sofi was arrested wearing a suicide belt in a military parade in the Central Security Forces camp in Sana’a on July 17. Two IEDs were successfully defused in Aden, Yemen’s second largest city, on July 12 and 22, both targeting the security forces in the city. Another IED detonated prematurely in al Mukalla, killing the bombmakers, whom the Yemeni Interior Ministry said was connected to AQAP.
Loyalists of the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh are acting more boldly in the capital, Sana’a, threatening to distract from the fight against Ansar al Sharia and AQAP. Gunmen loyal to the ousted president briefly seized a security building close to the Interior Ministry and used their position to block off a main road to the airport on July 29. A failed attempt to take the Interior Ministry building by tribesmen supporting Saleh left eight people dead in the capital today. Other reports indicate that the defected General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar sent his soldiers to take the Ministry this morning, resulting in several deaths. Another loyalist was killed while attacking the home of a general who defected during the Yemeni uprising in Sana’a on July 18.
Meanwhile, the progress toward the National Dialogue has stalled. President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi appointed a “Technical Committee” composed of leaders from the Southern Movement, the al Houthi rebellion, and the youth movement, including Nobel laureate Tawakul Karman, to prepare for the talks on July 14. The committee has not convened yet, although it was tasked to begin talks by July 24 in preparation for the National Dialogue. A UAE newspaper reported that the National Dialogue talks, scheduled for next November, will be delayed due to differences among the political sides.
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