Sunday, March 4, 2012

AQAP Expands in Yemen

By Fatik Al-Rodaini
Sana'a, March 4, 2012
Recently, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has stepped up attacks on security bases in a new scene that faces Yemen after a year of daily protests against former President Saleh. (AQAP) took benefit of political turmoil in the country trying to extend its foothold in the south seizing swaths of town there.
 During the last two weeks AQAP conducted numerous attacks against Yemeni forces in Abyan, Hadhramout, Aden, and Al-Baydha provinces, killing and wounding tens of soldiers, with the highest concentration of attacks occurring in the southern governorates.   AQAP's campaign of violence reached the level of an active insurgency in February after the presidential oath of the Yemen new president Abdu Rabu Mansor Hadi and at the beginning of March.  Most of AQAP's targets in Yemen appear to be government targets, with a particular focus on the state’s intelligence and security apparatuses and figures.
On Sunday Al-Qaeda militants tried to overrun an army post in Kud in Yemen's restive Abyan province. The violence then spread to other military positions on the outskirts of the city. Sunday's assault in which at least 139 soldiers were killed, several wounded, and 55 others captured, was the most lethal attack since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office last month.
According to observers, the militants' attack appeared to be Al-Qaeda's response to a pledge by Yemen's newly inaugurated President Hadi to fight the Yemeni branch of the terror network.
Most of these attacks targeted the Republican Guard, and Central Security bases and forces, were carried out by militants known in Yemen as the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law). The group claimed its responsibility and said the attacks were revenge for crimes committed by the Republican Guard, and Central Security.
Zinjibar town has been the site of regular clashes between the army and Islamist fighters, despite government claims to have "liberated" the city from militants last September.
Last week Ansar al-Sharia said it would unleash a torrent of attacks unless the army pulled its forces from Zinjibar.
The U.S. ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda, Yemen has allowed Washington to launch drone strikes on militants who regrouped there after successive blows suffered in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Actually, the United States, wary of Al-Qaeda entrenchment in Yemen, so it backed a plan brokered by Yemen's wealthy Gulf Arab neighbours under which Saleh handed over power to his deputy last month and secured himself immunity from prosecution. But Saleh's opponents accuse him of exaggerating - even encouraging - the threat of militancy to scare Washington and Riyadh.
However, the fact on the ground is that AQAP expended its operationsin the last year taking benefit of the crisis in the country, despite the drone strikes carried out by the United States which targeted the elements of the organization many times.
Controlling Yemeni towns by the militants is asserting its desire to seize power in Yemen, has modeled itself along the lines of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, actually has seized a number of towns, and has reaffirmed its allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri. 
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) appeared for first time under the new banner ''Ansar Al-Sharea or the Supporters of the Islamic Law'' on March 29, 2011 after they announced Abyan province as an Islamic Emirate, just two months of protests to oust president Saleh.
In May 2011, the new group overran the towns of Zinjibar and Ja'ar. After then the two towns witnessed fierce battles between Yemen's army forces along with local tribal allies against AQAP.
Furthermore, the exact time of AQAP's presence in Yemen returned to January 2009 when Yemeni and Saudi branches emerged as one of the network's most active and ambitious wings after setbacks to Al-Qaeda groups in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Here is a timeline tracing al Qaeda activity in Yemen since 2000:
Oct 12, 2000 - Bombing of USS Cole in Aden harbor kills 17 sailors and blows hole in navy vessel's hull.
Oct 6, 2002 - Explosion damages French supertanker Limburg in Gulf of Aden in attack for which five al Qaeda-linked Yemenis are later convicted.
July 2, 2007 - Seven Spanish tourists are killed when car bomb hits their convoy in eastern province of Marib.
March 17, 2008 - Three mortar rounds miss U.S. embassy in Sanaa and hit girls school, killing school guard.
Aug 11, 2008 - Five al Qaeda suspects are killed and two arrested after police storm hideout in southern town. Yemen links them to attacks on Spanish tourists and U.S. embassy.
Jan 18, 2008 - Gunmen fire on tourist group in Hadramaut, killing two Belgian women and their two Yemeni drivers.
Sept 17, 2008 - Two suicide car bombers attack heavily fortified U.S. embassy complex in Sanaa, killing 16 people. Washington says attack bore "all the hallmarks" of al Qaeda.
Jan 2009 - Al Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi wings announce merger in new group called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) led by Nasser al-Wahayshi, former Yemeni aide to Osama bin Laden.
June 2009 - Bodies of three kidnapped foreign women -- two Germans and a South Korean -- are found in northern province of Saada. Six other foreigners remain missing. No group claims responsibility. AQAP is among suspects.
Aug 27, 2009 - Abdullah al-Asiri, an al Qaeda suicide bomber posing as repentant militant, is flown from Yemen to Saudi Arabia, where he tries to kill kingdom's anti-terrorism chief Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in first such attack on a Saudi royal.
Nov 3, 2009 - Al Qaeda claims killing of seven Yemeni security officials in ambush near Saudi border.
Dec 17, 2009 - Yemen says 30 al Qaeda militants are killed and 17 arrested in air raids and security sweeps in southern province of Abyan and Arhab district northeast of Sanaa.
Dec 24, 2009 - Yemen says 30 al Qaeda militants are killed in air strikes in eastern province of Shabwa. Security official says Wahayshi, his Saudi deputy Saeed al-Shehri and U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki are among dead. There is no confirmation.
Dec 28, 2009 - AQAP claims responsibility for failed bombing of Detroit-bound U.S. airliner three days earlier.

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