Is Yemen Going Downhill Rapidly as a Secure Jihad Launch Pad?
Dr. David Sloggett
Contributing Writer, Homeland Security Today
Special to In Homeland Security
Of the more than 70 al-Qaida franchises, the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been one of the most effective. It was the group behind the development of what became known as the “underwear” bomb and the attempt to deliver bombs to a Synagogue in Chicago using parcels sent by air freight in October 2010.
Given the enduring nature of the threat from AQAP and its reputation for innovation, it has been classified by the Department of State as the most dangerous of al-Qaida’s franchises. It was therefore hardly surprising that it should claim to be behind the heinous attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
AQAP’s threat in the wake of the Paris attacks that similar attacks will occur throughout the West is one that will be difficult for Western intelligence agencies to easily dismiss. AQAP is bucking a trend — local military operations and concerted action by Western intelligence agencies, other al-Qaida franchises in places such as Somalia and Mali have had to focus on survival. AQAP is the single franchise that continues to actively target the West while mounting operations within its host country.
Despite the ongoing American drone strikes (there were 13 confirmed in Yemen in 2014 that reportedly killed 82) AQAP has managed to use the unique geographic and ethnic tribal tapestry of the Yemeni security landscape to survive. The vast and desolate areas of the Hadramaut — Osama bin Laden’s ancestral home — provide the perfect sanctuary for AQAP to enable them to create instability across Yemen. From this platform, in 2008 AQAP managed to establish footholds in other provinces across Yemen, such as Mareb and Abyan, adding to the problems faced by the government in the capital city of Sana’a.
The security situation in Yemen can be described as immensely challenging. And it’s been made more difficult by the insurrection in the north of the country led by the Huthis who follow the Shia school of Islam. They recently moved south from their northern strongholds and occupied Sana’a. Given that it was mainly inhabited by Sunnis, this has created a complex situation which has been actively exploited by AQAP.
Since Sept. 21, 2014, AQAP has stepped up attacks across Yemen, including carrying out 27 attacks in the capital, 47 in Baydah and 75 in 12 other provinces. The most recent and graphic illustration occurred January 7 when a car bomb targeted police recruits in Sana’a that killed 37 and wounding 68. This is now part of an established pattern of attacks by Non-State Armed Groups (NSAG).
In 2008, there were 33 NSAG attacks in the Yemen. These were initially focused in Sana’a and Hadramaut. Fifteen of these attacks — close to half — involved the use of improvised explosive devices (IED). The most spectacular was the multi-phase attack by a suicide bomber in a car on the United States Embassy in the capital September 17, 2014 in which 17 people were killed, including the six assailants.
Read the full article at HSToday.
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