The Islamic State’s Yemen Province continues to suffer from a leadership dispute that emerged two weeks ago. More than a week after 70 members of the Islamic State rejected the emir for its Yemen Province on Dec. 15, another 31 members – including three senior leaders – backed them up and refused to follow the group’s regional leader.
On Dec. 24, three senior leaders – including two members of the province’s Security Committee (Sheikh Salman al Lahiji and Rawaha al Adeni) and a member of the Preaching Committee (Abu Hafs al Somali) – as well as a local security official and 27 “soldiers” from Aden, Abyan, Shabwa, and Hadramout provinces issued a statement denouncing the Islamic State’s emir of Yemen, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
“We have been informed about the statement of our brothers, the soldiers of the Islamic State who dissociated from working with the governor of Yemen, and we saw the reasons they mentioned in the statement,” the group of dissidents stated, according to SITE. “They are true and are an extension of the Shariah violations that the governor of Yemen insisted upon with his retinue.”
The dissidents said that they “have dissociated from working with the governor, and we do not mind if we do not remain in his troop in the dark night.”
In total, 101 Islamic State leaders and fighters – all of whom have been named – have now denounced the group’s emir for Yemen. But all said that they remain loyal to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the overall caliph of the Islamic State.
The Islamic State’s central committee responded forcefully to the original 70 members’ denunciation of the Yemeni emir. On Dec. 19, Abu Ubaydah Abd al Hakim, a “Member of the Shura Council of the Caliphate,” issued a scathing response to the 70, and called them “defectors” from the Islamic State. Hakim “rejected” their request to remove the governor of Yemen and said that the group had renounced its pledge to Baghdadi by “disobeying” the governor. [See LWJ report, Divisions emerge within the Islamic State’s Yemen ‘province’.]
It is unclear as to how the current dispute within the Islamic State in Yemen will impact the group and its operations. While the size of the Yemen-based contingent is not publicly known, some estimates indicate that it has several hundred fighters in its ranks. Therefore, the defection of 18 senior leaders and 83 fighters is no small fissure.