Between Monday night and Tuesday morning, Yemeni military forces arrested four members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninusla (AQAP) in Hodeidah province in the western part of the country. Searches for other militants in Hodeidah and neighboring Dhamar province are still ongoing.
The AQAP militants were intercepted when they attempted to bypass a Yemeni military checkpoint in Jabal al Ra’s in southwest Hodeidah by driving along a dirt path at a distance from the checkpoint. After noticing the car, soldiers chased the militants and successfully apprehended them.
The Yemeni Ministry of Defense confirmed that four militants were arrested, including two Saudis. The Saudis were identified as Mohammad Samel Majed al Otaybi, also known as Abu Ghaleb, a 30-year-old native of Riyadh, and Salah Mohammad Salah al Asiri, also known as Abu Sarem, a 31-year-old from Abha.
The other two militants arrested were Yemeni nationals: Mohammad Sadeq Abdo Ibrahim Mohammad al Mathani, a 20-year-old from Wasab using the operational name Abu Mus’ab, and Ibrahim Ali Salah Abdallah Hazem, a 23-year-old from Yaf’a known as Abu Hajer. Weapons, explosives, and forged identification documents were confiscated from the arrested militants.
A Yemeni official said that two hours after the arrests, at approximately 3 a.m. on April 1, AQAP militants attacked the Jabal al Ra’s checkpoint in an apparent attempt to free their comrades. The exchange of fire resulted in the deaths of two militants and two Yemeni soldiers, identified as Seargent Ahmad Salah Deyf Allah al A’bas and Corporal Akram Lotf Ali Salah al Quwa. Three other AQAP militants were injured during the clashes.
The remaining militants fled towards the Wasab administrative district in neighboring Dhamar province and left behind a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). Yemeni bomb disposal experts from Sana’a arrived in Hodeidah that afternoon and began work to disarm the explosives-laden vehicle. A Yemeni journalist confirmed that work on the VBIED continued into the night and commented that the disarming appeared “complicated.”
Yemeni military officials urged residents in the Wasab area to be on the lookout for any suspicious individuals and to report any sightings of suspected AQAP members.