Al-Qaeda Attacks Amid Yemen’s Truce

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Jess Diez
Managing Editor & Research Associate, Middle East Policy Council

September 7, 2022

On Tuesday, September 6, 21 separatist fighters and six Al-Qaeda members died following multiple hours of fighting in Yemen. Al-Qaeda has conducted recent attacks and kidnapping in various areas of Yemen amid a shaky cease-fire among Yemen’s warring parties and the Saudi coalition. While fighting has overall decreased since the introduction of the UN-brokered truce in April 2022, the recent Al-Qaeda attacks pose concerns for Yemen’s safety and security. 

The clash descalated after Al-Qaeda fighters attacked a military outpost in Ahwar, located in the southern province of Yemen. This outpost was operated mainly by the Security Belt, a Yemeni military force made up of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC). According to Asharq Al-Awsat, “among the dead troops was Yasser Nasser Shaea, a senior commander in the force fighting terror groups in Yemen, the Security Belt said in a statement. It said six militants were killed and others were detained. It posted images showing bodies it said were the dead militants.”

Although neither group claimed liability for the ambush, it is believed to bear qualities of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Tuesday’s attack bears remnants similar to the Al-Qaeda 2020 attack to Security Belt Forces in various southern Yemeni regions. According to political analyst Faisal Ahmed in Al-Mashareq, it is becoming more common for ‘terrorists’ to exploit “the conflict between the Security Belt Forces and the legitiate government’s national army to carry out new attacks. ‘The UN Special Envoy to Yemen had warned of the danger of al-Qaeda exploiting the conflict between the Security Belt Forces and national army as a result of delays in implementing the military aspect of the Riyadh Agreement, which was signed in early November [2019],’ he said.”

Mohammed Al-Naqeeb, a spokesperson for the pro-independence southern force, stated that the attackers used a combination of light and heavy machine guns. According to Al-Naqeeb in Arab news, the weapons included “‘heavy and light machine guns, RPGs and grenades, and our forces were able to neutralize them all,’ Al-Naqeeb said. The attack comes as military and security forces seek to reclaim control of several rugged and remote areas in the south that have long been regarded as safe havens for militants.”

Al-Naqeeb continued to represent the pro-independence southern forces, stating the importance of defeating Al-Qaeda following multiple accounts of kidnappings and smallers clashes. The latest attack prompted local officials to request assistance from international groups: “Residents of Abyan have recently reported seeing militants setting up checkpoints in remote areas, attacking locals and kidnapping security and military personnel, despite efforts to confront them… ‘We are dealing with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the world’s largest terrorist organization. If we were successful in defeating them, the world as a whole, not just the south, would benefit.,’ Al-Naqeeb said.”

AQAP had persisted its for over a decade, allowing the group to continue to lead attacks and abductions of Western officials based in Yemen. According to Al-Jazeera, AQAP has evaded campaigns “from the US military, the coalition and the Houthis, taking advantage of Yemen’s mayhem, tribal sympathies and large and empty swathes of south Yemen. Underlining Yemen’s parlous security situation, on Saturday AQAP released a video showing a United Nations worker who was abducted more than six months ago…Five UN staff members were kidnapped in Abyan in February [2022] while returning to the port city of Aden after a field mission…Akam Sofyol Anam, the director of the UN Office of Security and Safety in Yemen, urges ‘the UN, the international community, the humanitarian organisations, to please come forward… and meet the demands of my captors,’ without outlining the demands.”

However, as civilians and local officials are witnessing fighting during the period of a UN-brokered ceasefire and are protesting the infractions of the truce, fighting has drastically decreased. The truce, which has been extended until October 2, 2022, has led Hans Grundberg, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, to begin working on a durable significant ceasefire. According to the United Nations Press, Grundberg publicly announced that “‘we all need to remind ourselves that failure to reach an agreement to extend the truce would lead to renewed cycles of escalation and violence, with predictable and devastating consequences for Yemen’s population. Yemen urgently needs to avoid this scenario,’ said Hans Grundberg…calling on the parties to ‘make the choice to build the necessary confidence to avoid a return to war and to begin to build a lasting peace.’”

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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