Al Qaeda-linked militants continue to hold territory in south Yemen. Unrest and violent clashes between government troops and opposition factions in Sana’a and Taiz are increasing as political negotiations drag on.
Airstrikes late Friday night killed at least seven al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operatives in Azzan in Shabwah governorate. Azzan has been a stronghold for AQAP. The strikes killed Egyptian-born Ibrahim al Banna, whom Yemen’s Defense Ministry called AQAP’s media chief. Also killed in the strike, according to local sources, were the son of Anwar al Awlaki, Abdul Rahman al Awlaki, and the brother of Fahd al Quso, Farhan al Quso. The first strike hit a house where AQAP operatives had been meeting and then subsequent strikes targeted two vehicles, killing the operatives.
Militants shut down the Total gas pipeline between Ma’rib and Belhaf. An underground gas pipeline in Belhaf area of Shabwah governorate was attacked around 12:30am Saturday morning. The attack occurred hours after the strike on the AQAP operatives. Total evacuated its foreign staff.
A protest march outside of Tagheer (Change) Square sparked violence in Sana’a. Medics reported Sunday that Yemeni security forces fired on protestors along al Zubayri Street in Sana’a, killing at least four people and injuring over fifty people. Defected First Armored Division soldiers returned fire. The march was scheduled to go toward al Qaa Street, less than a kilometer from the Presidential Palace. Saturday, at least 12 people were killed in a similar march along al Zubayri Street. Fighting between pro-government troops and opposition tribesmen killed 17 other people in al Hasaba district of Sana’a Saturday.
Defected General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar issued a statement calling for immediate action from the international community. He also reported that 7,000 members of Yemen’s elite Republican Guard and Central Security Forces defected recently.
Protests continue in Taiz’s Freedom Square, despite ongoing violence. Sunday, a government sniper killed a protester, according to eyewitnesses. Four others were reportedly injured.
An Ansar al Sharia militant reported that the group had detained dozens of people for committing robbery who would be tried in a shari’a court in Zinjibar. He added that a number of the detained came from neighboring governorates.
Clashes broke out between anti-government demonstrators and southern secessionists in al Mukalla in Hadramawt governorate. The fighting occurred Friday during a march commemorating the start of the 1963 revolution against the British.
The ongoing political crisis in the capital has placed the Yemeni state at risk of a broader armed conflict. Further, the Yemeni state has been undergoing fragmentation. Al Qaeda has seized control of territory in south Yemen and the current situation has increased the organization’s operating space in the country.