November 28, 2014 12:09 PM
By Oren Adaki
On Nov. 28, a Twitter account linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed credit for bombing the US Embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa during the evening of Nov. 27, coinciding with Thanksgiving, using two improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The last time AQAP has claimed credit for directly targeting the US Embassy in Sanaa was in late September, after fighters from the terrorist group launched rockets that reportedly fell about 100 meters away from the embassy.
In the statement regarding the latest embassy attack, AQAP claims that its fighters managed to plant two IEDs at the northern gate of the US Embassy in Sana'a. The statement notes that one of these explosives contained shrapnel, a common terrorist practice used to increase potential injuries from the explosion. According to AQAP, the explosives were detonated at precisely 7:51 p.m. on Nov. 27 and resulted in a number of casualties among the ranks of the embassy security guards.
However, the AQAP narrative on the attack is at odds with other reports on the incident. Arabic media reports and Yemeni security sources claimed that assailants riding a motorbike who were "believed to be from al Qaeda" opened fire at the embassy security guards. Those reports also state that two individuals were killed in the course of the "clashes," including one of the assailants.
The AQAP statement recognizes this disparity and denies the media reports' claims. "Our correspondent denied the veracity of this matter," the AQAP statement reads, "confirming that the attack was carried out by detonating the two IEDs remotely and not by using firearms, as was stated by the media."
This latest attack comes just weeks after AQAP claimed to have targeted US Ambassador to Yemen Matthew H. Tueller. On Nov. 8, AQAP stated that two IEDs planted by its fighters in front of the residence of the Yemeni president in Sana'a were intended to be detonated as Tueller left a meeting inside the house. Tueller met with President Hadi on Nov. 8 in his Sana'a home for over an hour, and the AQAP statement claimed that the explosives were found just minutes before the ambassador exited the Yemeni president's house.
If AQAP's claims are true, this would be yet another indication that AQAP has successfully exploited Yemen's current unstable political and security situation to its benefit. Just this month, AQAP has claimed to have planted explosives in front of the residences of both the current and former Yemeni presidents, attempted to assassinate the US ambassador, and tried to attack the US Embassy. These alleged attacks have come amid almost daily AQAP operations against Yemeni military positions, particularly in the southern and eastern provinces, as well as targeting the advance of Shiite Houthi rebels in central Yemen.
November 26, 2014 2:08 PM
By Laura Grossman
Two female suicide bombers detonated explosive devices around 11:00 a.m. yesterday in a crowded market area in the Borno state capital of Maiduguri. At least 78 people have been reported killed in the attack and several more injured.
The timing of the two suicide bombings was staggered. According to Reuters, the first bomber "entered the roadside trading area behind the city's main market before blowing herself up." She killed herself and three other women.
The second explosion occurred shortly afterward, as people came to the aid of the victims of the first bombing. A chicken vendor who worked nearby informed AFP that the female bomber was carrying the explosives on her back, in the way babies are carried. He commented: "She manoeuvred her way to the scene of the earlier explosion ... I think it was a deliberate plan to inflict much pain on unsuspecting people because the second explosion went off after many people gathered at the scene of the first one."
No one has claimed responsibility for yesterday's double suicide attack, but it is suspected to be part of Boko Haram's ongoing offensive in northeastern Nigeria. On July 1, the same market was targeted by a suicide car bombing. At least 18 people were killed and over 50 injured in that suspected Boko Haram attack.
November 26, 2014 1:28 PM
By Oren Adaki
On Nov. 25, the media wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Malahem Media Foundation, released the latest installment of its video series documenting attacks, "From the Battlefield." This most recent episode, "Invasion of 'And Let Them Find Harshness in You,'" includes footage of an AQAP assault on the Ghabr military barracks and checkpoint in Hadramout, Yemen. Although the video does not provide a date for the attack, AQAP fighters reportedly stormed the Ghabr checkpoint on October 9.
The video begins with a message from one of the AQAP fighters who participated in the raid, identified as "martyrdom seeker" Muwahhid al Qifi. Al Qifi implores his loved ones and family to be patient and explains that "we have only mobilized to raise the word of 'there is no God but Allah.'" He dictates his "will to the Islamic ummah [nation]" in which he reminds them that Allah "will question you about this religion and why you did not support this religion...one by one."
"Mobilize! Mobilize young and old! Mobilize in the cause of Allah," al Qifi beseeches the Muslim community.
The release then shows footage of AQAP fighters allegedly training and preparing for the "invasion." Two fighters are shown manufacturing an explosive and wiring a vehicle to be used as a vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in the attack. The fighters prepare for battle, review their plan, and bid farewell to the "martyrdom seekers."
At around minute 7:00, the VBIED is seen detonating in the vicinity of the military checkpoint and AQAP fighters subsequently clash with Yemeni military personnel on site. About a minute later, the video pans up and shows an "enemy helicopter" in the sky above, while AQAP fighters attempt to shoot at it. Shortly thereafter, a caption reads "the helicopter escaped after clashes."
After the scenes of battle, a caption announces that "the mujahideen took control of the barracks," and the fighters are seen surveying the corpses of dead Yemeni soldiers strewn about the ground. One AQAP fighter announces, "Those are the soldiers of the tyrant, we are the soldiers of Allah! You have seen who wins: those soldiers of the tyrant or the soldiers of Allah?"
Towards the end of the video, another fighter explains AQAP's reasoning for specifically attacking the al Ghabr facilities. He alleges that this checkpoint caused "a large amount of harm" to the Sunnis. He claims that soldiers from that station "killed a man, wounded a woman, and stole from the Muslims with no reason." A second rationale, which is perhaps more pertinent to AQAP's interests, is the fighter's allegation that the checkpoint is used to facilitate "the Americans to guide espionage aircraft."
The same jihadist then details the operation: AQAP fighters stormed the location, took spoils, killed the Yemeni soldiers stationed there, and then controlled the facility for a period of time, "waiting for the support of the enemy." However, the fighter claims that no government reinforcements arrived. At the very end of the video, images of AQAP fighters killed in the operation, along with their identities, are provided. They are: Saif al Adl al Sanaani, Al Zubeir al Fadhli, Al Qa'qa' al Lahji, and Abu Bakr al Somali.
November 25, 2014 12:31 PM
By Caleb Weiss
"Report on a side from the unfolding battle of Ramadi"
The Islamic State has released new photographs from recent fighting in the Iraqi city of Ramadi. The provincial capital of Anbar came under renewed attack from a multi-pronged Islamic State offensive on Nov 21.
The pictures were produced by the Islamic State's Wilayat Anbar and then disseminated on Twitter by its supporters. The terrorist organization has taken to releasing its propaganda that way as the social media site has cracked down on official Islamic State accounts. The provincial division (Wilayat) of Anbar is one of the Islamic State's 18 declared provinces.
The images show the Islamic State utilizing captured M113 armored personnel carriers, firing rocket-propelled grenades (RPG's) at Iraqi military or tribal militia positions, as well as demonstrate the destruction of several Humvees and Iraqi police Ford F-350 pickup trucks. Several photographs display dead Iraqi military personnel or tribal militiamen, including one picture of a severed head. The last few images show children apparently cheering in the streets while carrying the Islamic State's flag.
According to Reuters, gunmen attacked Anbar provincial government offices and the police headquarters in the center of the city in the Nov. 21 assault, as well as the al Huz and al Mua'almim districts. Another report indicated that the districts of Albu Hayis, Albu Fahd, and Albu Alwan, which are traditional strongholds of the Sunni tribal Awakening Movement, also came under attack. Al Jazeera reported that "at least 20 soldiers" were killed in the offensive, including Iraqi police colonel Majid al Fahdawi. Fahdawi was reportedly killed by sniper fire in the Mudhiq district of Ramadi.
The battle for control of Ramadi is ongoing. However, CNN has reported that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), with the help of tribal militias and US airstrikes, have pushed the Islamic State back from several areas of the city. The terrorist organization is still putting up a fight near the Anbar Educational Directorate and the governmental complex downtown. Several Arabic-language news sites are reporting that street-to-street fighting in residential areas is also ongoing.
At least 41 people have been killed since the fighting began, including ISF personnel, tribal militiamen and civilians. The Islamic State reportedly murdered 25 members of the Albu Fahd tribe in eastern Ramadi; the bodies were found by Iraqi Security personnel, who believe the men were executed in retaliation for the tribe's resistance. The losses sustained by the Islamic State in the recent fighting are not clear, but the National Iraqi News Agency reported that 39 of the group's fighters have been killed. This number could not be independently verified, however.
The southern districts of Al Tam'im, the aforementioned Mua'almim, Thubat, and 5 Kilo, in addition to the 7 Kilo and Albu Aytha areas west and north of the city, are either contested or under Islamic State control. Iraqi security forces are said to be concentrated at the Anbar Operations Command Center, which is north of the Euphrates River. It is thought that the terror organization is already in control of around 60 percent of Ramadi after battles that have raged since its initial assault on the city in January.
This latest Islamic State offensive comes as US Special Forces have begun to implement large-scale training of the Iraqi Army and Sahwa forces at the Al Assad airbase close to Ramadi. President Barack Obama has also authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 US personnel to Iraq for training purposes; many of these troops will likely be deployed to Al Assad. According to NPR, the trainees include Anbar-based troops of the Iraqi Army's 7th Division, which has suffered severe setbacks in the province. [For more details, see LWJ reports, Islamic State ambushes Iraqi military column near Ramadi, Islamic State overruns Iraqi military base in Anbar, Islamic State photos highlight group's grip on Ramadi, and Islamic State photos detail rout of Iraqi Army at Camp Saqlawiya.]
Photos showing the recent fighting in Ramadi can be seen below:
November 25, 2014 10:02 AM
By Caleb Weiss
Photograph released by the Islamic State's Wilayat Anbar allegedly showing the explosion from the suicide bombing near the Trebil border complex
The Islamic State has released photographs purporting to show a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) exploding near the Trebil border complex. The complex, which is part of the Karameh border crossing with Jordan, is in the Iraqi village of Trebil in the western province of Anbar. The attack, which was directed at an Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) checkpoint, is said to have killed or wounded several Iraqi military personnel.
The picture was produced by the Islamic State's Wilayat Anbar and then disseminated on Twitter by its supporters. The terrorist organization has taken to releasing its propaganda that way as the social media site has cracked down on official Islamic State accounts. The provincial division (Wilayat) of Anbar is one of the Islamic State's 18 declared provinces.
The attack, according to several Arabic-language news agencies, left at least four Iraqi military personnel dead and four others wounded. According to Iraqi Spring, an activist media group in Iraq, at least six military personnel were killed or wounded. The latter fits with a report from the Institute for the Study of War that says two Iraqi Army personnel were killed and four were wounded.
The Trebil crossing was captured by the Islamic State on June 22, just a day after the group seized the Al Qaim border crossing with Syria. Al Qaim, an Iraqi city along the Euphrates River near Syria, is now part of the Islamic State's Wilayat al Furat (Euphrates Province). The Trebil crossing, however, was recaptured by the Iraqi military on June 24. As such, it has been a contested area for some time.
November 25, 2014 9:53 AM
By Oren Adaki
On Nov. 23, a Twitter account affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) eulogized one of its slain fighters who was allegedly killed in a US drone strike, Abd al Baqi Ali Ahmad Ba Shaybah.
Known among his fellow AQAP fighters by the nom-de-guerre Abu Jaber al Houti, Abd al Baqi was a native of the Houta area in Shabwa province. He attempted to travel to Iraq during the US invasion in 2003, but was reportedly detained at the airport in Syria and prevented from continuing on to Iraq. Abd al Baqi subsequently returned to Yemen and then relocated to Saudi Arabia for work.
When Yemeni authorities began a military operation to detain al Qaeda leader Abdullah al Mihdar, presumably in January 2010, Abd al Baqi's "proud soul could not be patiently sitting," so he left his job in Saudi Arabia and returned to Yemen in support of al Mihdar. His eulogy claims that he arrived in Yemen at a time when the military campaign against Mihdar was still centered on Abd al Baqi's native city of al Houta. According to the AQAP eulogy, he participated in the fighting and "at that time, the story of our martyr's joining his mujahideen brothers in Yemen of faith and wisdom begins."
Abd al Baqi went on to "participate...in the control of the city of Azzan in Shabwa," presumably in June 2011, and also "participated in battles of Dawfas (Dofas) in Abyan," which took place in August 2011. He was reportedly lightly wounded during the fighting in Abyan and returned to Azzan to receive medical treatment.
As soon as Abd al Baqi had healed, he and three other AQAP fighters drove a vehicle from Azzan in Shabwa to Abyan province and were then reportedly targeted by "a Crusader drone between the areas of al Mahfad and Ahwar." His eulogy claims that Abd al Baqii was killed by the strike along with "two of his brothers," while the fourth fighter was wounded.
Although AQAP did not announce the exact date of his death, it appears that Abd al Baqi might have been killed in the drone strike on Sept. 21, 2011. Reports at that time indicated that a US drone targeted a vehicle in Abyan's Mahfad region, killing four AQAP fighters. Fahd al Quso, a top operational commander of AQAP who has been indicted for his role in the suicide attack on the USS Cole in December 2000 and was officially added to the list of designated terrorists in December 2010, is rumored to have been the target of that strike.
November 24, 2014 6:51 PM
By Laura Grossman
Currently ranked fourth in the 2014 Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria is suffering another wave of attacks in the northeast by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
On Nov. 20, Boko Haram fighters killed 48 fish sellers in an attack near the Chadian border. Without using guns, the terrorists slit the throats of some of their victims, and tied others up and drowned them. The massacre took place near the village of Doron Baga in Borno state, after the terrorists blocked the vendors' path as they headed to a fish market in Chad. The Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), comprised of troops from Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, maintains its base nine miles away in Doron Baga. The head of the local fish traders association said that "[t]he attackers killed their victims silently without the use of the gun to avoid attracting attention from the multi-national troops."
Boko Haram is also suspected of killing 45 people the day before, in an attack on the village of Azaya Kura in Borno. As in the Nov. 20 attack, the attackers had tied the victims' hands tied behind their backs and cut their throats. The attackers, who had arrived in several trucks, also destroyed houses and stole food and livestock.
Reports of recent attacks have been slow to reach news outlets since Boko Haram destroyed mobile phone towers during earlier attacks in the neighborhood. In August, Boko Haram hit Doron Baga and nearby fishing villages, kidnapping around 100 men and boys and killing 28 others. Chadian troops rescued 85 hostages the following week.
And today suspected Boko Haram fighters attacked Damasak, another town in Borno, which lies near the border with Niger. In an assault that reportedly lasted for hours, gunmen torched houses and opened fire on residents. It is not clear how many people were killed. One resident noted that some 15 people had drowned while trying to swim across a river to safety.
November 24, 2014 12:11 PM
By Oren Adaki
Fighting that has raged for well over a month between al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen's central Baydah and Dhamar provinces is showing no indications of slowing down. On the contrary, AQAP is claiming credit for new IED and shooting attacks against Houthi military positions and personnel and even the targeting of Houthi leaders, activists, and residences in central Yemen.
AQAP released statements via Twitter claiming four improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against Houthi military vehicles in Baydah province between Nov. 21 and Nov. 23.
According to AQAP, at 11:50 a.m. on Nov. 21 its fighters detonated an IED as a Houthi military vehicle was driving along the supply route in the Bani Ali region of Mekerib in Qayfat Radaa, killing 12 Houthis on board. The following day, on Nov. 22, AQAP fighters staged an identical attack at 1:00 p.m. in the al Aleeb region of Baydah, close to the village of Khobza, which had been captured by the Houthis after three days of fierce clashes with AQAP that started on Nov. 13.
Another statement claimed that on Nov. 23, AQAP fighters carried out two additional IED attacks against Houthi military vehicles. At 9:00 a.m., an IED detonated as a Houthi vehicle passed along the Bani Ali region of Mekerib in Qayfat Radaa, the site of an identical attack two days prior, resulting in the deaths of seven Houthis. "A number of Houthis" were killed later in the day in the Hammat Bani Sarar region of Radaa by an IED attack that burned their vehicle completely. The AQAP statement said the number of casualties could not be determined.
In addition to the attacks on Houthi military vehicles, AQAP also claimed credit for twin IED attacks at 11:00 a.m. on Nov. 22 targeting "two residences owned by two Houthis in the city of Radaa," Hussein Bujeir and Shareef al Jawfi. According to AQAP, the attacks wounded Houthis who were in the two houses, but did not cause any deaths. The following day, on Nov. 23, tribal fighters launched a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at another Houthi residence in Radaa; the AQAP statement said the fighters were from the village of Khobza, and that the attack killed four Houthis inside the house.
The attacks on Houthi residences in Radaa in Baydah province followed AQAP assassinations in Dhamar and Abyan provinces.
AQAP claims that fighters from its Farouq Brigades based in Radaa opened fire on Hashem Rawiya, a Houthi activist, killing him in his shop in the city of Dhamar on Nov. 20. The AQAP statement boasted that the Farouq Brigade had also assassinated Houthi leader Khaled al Washli, who was killed in Dhamar on Nov. 17.
And on Nov. 21, AQAP detonated an IED planted inside a television set as Houthi supporter and electric engineer Abu Salem Khaled Ahmad Ali Salem attempted to repair it in the city of Lawdar in Abyan province. AQAP claimed that Abu Salem was broadcasting Houthi propaganda and serving as a media official for the Shiite rebel group.
While escalating its operations against Houthi advances in central Yemen, AQAP is also continuing its campaign against the Yemeni military, particularly in the eastern portion of the country. Most recently, the terrorist organization claimed credit for a Nov. 22 IED attack on an armored military vehicle traveling from Wadi Sir towards the Special Forces Base in Qatn, located in central Hadramout province. According to AQAP, the vehicle was directly hit at 4:45 p.m. with enough force to turn it over, resulting in the deaths of an undetermined number of soldiers on board.
The following photo was released along with the statement about the IED attack on Nov. 22 in Hadramout:
November 24, 2014 12:03 AM
By Oren Adaki
Al Raymi is an AQAP co-founder who was designated by the US Department of State in 2010 for his role in "reviving the regional node" of al Qaeda in Yemen and his participation in various terrorist plots, including the attack on the USS Cole in Aden. The audio message was released to YouTube as a video showing a still shot of Raymi as well as an image of what appears to be a crowd of Houthi supporters carrying an American flag bearing the Houthi logo with a drone flying overhead [see above].
In the audio message, al Raymi describes the Houthi takeover of various Yemeni provinces as "the delivery from one hand to another, from one agent to another, by the command of the master ... America, under the supervision of their messenger, Ibn Omar [Jamal Benomar, the UN Special Adviser on Yemen.]" Raymi calls the Houthi rebels "the coming rifle of America" and threatens them with "horrors that will make the hair of young children turn grey" in retaliation for their alleged attacks on mosques, schools, and civilian houses.
Despite AQAP's accusations of US-Houthi collusion, the Obama administration successfully urged the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on three Yemenis, including Houthi leaders Abdul Khaliq al Houthi and Abudllah Yahya al Hakim, for their role in threatening Yemen's stability. The US has accused former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh - the third Yemeni figure sanctioned by the UN - of facilitating the Houthi takeover of Yemen. AQAP has pointed to US drone strikes against against the group during the course of fighting with the Houthis as proof for this alleged US-Houthi alliance. In a recent video interview, AQAP commander Jalal al Marqishi made specific mention of an Oct. 24 drone strike in the Manasseh district of Radaa, noting that it paved the way for the Houthis to take the area.
Raymi makes mention of Houthi human rights violations during the course of the Shiite rebels' military advance throughout the country which began in earnest early this year with the capture of the Sunni stronghold of Dammaj in northern Sa'ada province and Amran in July. Raymi accuses the Houthis of killing students in Dammaj as well as killing, displacing, and looting from civilians in "Amran, al Jawf, Sana'a, Maysara, Arhab, Radaa, and Ibb."
Raymi vows to exact a harsh punishment on the Houthis, proclaiming, "the bill of punishment is long and has not yet begun, so prepare to pay it with your souls and lives." He tries to explain that now that the Houthis hold the reins of power in Yemen, AQAP need not continue fighting a two-front war - the Houthis and the Yemeni authorities are effectively "one entity."
The AQAP commander assures the Sunni tribes of Yemen that his fighters will act as a "strong shield," protecting them and putting "our throats before yours." He indicates that AQAP's assurances of victory are grounded in the group's "holding fast to our religion and rejecting the tyrants and their laws."
At the end of his address, Raymi calls upon Yemen's Sunni tribesmen to fight the Houthis as a religious ordinance. He says that AQAP's anti-Houthi campaign is a "response to the command of our Lord," which is incumbent on all Muslims. Raymi explains that no one is allowed to abandon this sacred duty, especially when the Houthis are in their own backyards. He abjures those who do not participate in the battle, "Why do you not fight in the cause of Allah?"
Raymi tells his listeners that there are only two good outcomes: "victory or martyrdom." According to his message, refusing to participate in the struggle ordained by Allah will only lead to humiliation and shame. He concludes the recording by asking Allah to glorify those who obey his commands and humiliate those who choose to disobey.
November 21, 2014 12:21 PM
By Caleb Weiss
Photo allegedly taken from Ramadi today
The Islamic State has launched a coordinated assault on Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's large western province of Anbar, in an attempt to take over the entire city. It is thought that the terror organization is already in control of around 60 percent of Ramadi after battles that have raged since its initial assault on the city in January.
According to Reuters, gunmen attacked Anbar provincial government offices and the police headquarters in the center of the city, as well as the al Huz and al Mua'almim districts. Another report indicates that the districts of Albu Hayis, Albu Fahd, and Albu Alwan, which are traditional strongholds of the Sunni tribal Sahwa (Awakening) Movement, are also under attack. Al Jazeera is reporting that "at least 20 soldiers" have been killed in this assault, including Iraqi police colonel Majid al Fahdawi. Fahdawi was reportedly killed by sniper fire in the Mudhiq district of Ramadi.
Both Awakening and Iraqi military forces are currently trying to push back the Islamic State assault. In addition, mosque officials throughout the besieged areas are asking civilians "who can carry weapons to confront the attackers," according to Reuters.
The southern districts of Al Tam'im, the aforementioned Mua'almim, Thubat, and 5 Kilo, in addition to the 7 Kilo and Albu Aytha areas west and north of the city, are either contested or under Islamic State control. Iraqi security forces are said to be concentrated at the Anbar Operations Command Center, which is north of the Euphrates River.
This assault comes as US Special Forces have begun to implement large-scale training of the Iraqi Army and Sahwa forces at the Al Assad airbase close to Ramadi. President Barack Obama has also authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 US personnel to Iraq for training purposes; many of these troops will likely be deployed to Al Assad. According to NPR, the trainees include Anbar-based troops of the Iraqi Army's 7th Division, which has suffered severe setbacks in the province. [For more details, see LWJ reports, Islamic State ambushes Iraqi military column near Ramadi, Islamic State overruns Iraqi military base in Anbar, and Islamic State photos detail rout of Iraqi Army at Camp Saqlawiya.]
November 20, 2014 2:02 PM
By Oren Adaki
On Nov. 19, a Twitter account affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed credit for a series of attacks that took place this week, including a twin improvised explosive device (IED) attack on two Houthi leaders in the central Yemeni province of Dhamar. The Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah, are northern rebels from a minority Shiite sect who overran Yemen's capital city of Sana'a in late September and have since continued their military advance through the country, taking Dhamar province in mid-October.
AQAP claimed that its fighters carried out two separate IED attacks in the provincial capital city of Dhamar on Nov. 17, targeting the residences of two Houthi leaders. Fighters from the "Abi Bakr al-Sadeeq Brigade" from Ibb province allegedly planted the IEDs. The AQAP statement indicated that the first IED attack targeted the home of Houthi leader Abdallah Hassan al Washli at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 using an 8-kilogram bomb made from TNT. The residence of a second Houthi leader named Banus, located in the Ma'bar section of Dhamar, was targeted at 8:15 p.m. The AQAP statement claimed that the attacks resulted in casualties and significant material damage.
These latest attacks in Dhamar came just hours after AQAP fighters assassinated another Houthi leader in the city, Khaled al Washli. A statement released that day by the jihadist group said that AQAP fighters opened fire at 11:00 a.m. as al Washli was near the Anas public market in Dhamar. Notably, the statement asserted that the attack was carried out by Ansar al Sharia's al-Farouq Brigade, which is usually based in the nearby province of Radaa. In 2012, the US Department of State identified Ansar al Sharia as an alias for AQAP.
AQAP also claimed credit for an attack on Houthi fighters that took place in Baydah province on Nov. 19. In that incident, the jihadist group detonated an IED on a Houthi vehicle close to the Hayd al Majel Cemetery in the Tha region of Radaa. No more information regarding that attack was forthcoming from AQAP.
AQAP has also claimed credit for an IED attack on a military armored vehicle that took place on Nov. 17 in eastern Hadramout province. The statement indicated that the attack occurred at 10:00 a.m. as the vehicle was driving along the road connecting the cities of Shibam and Seyoun. According to the jihadist group, three soldiers were killed in the operation and the remaining troops were injured.
November 19, 2014 3:56 PM
By Bill Roggio
US Central Command, or CENTCOM, announced today that it again targeted the "Khorasan Group," which is comprised of a group of senior al Qaeda leaders and operatives who are embedded within the Al Nusrah Front. The Khorasan Group is tasked with identifying Western recruits who joined Al Nusrah and can be repurposed for attacks in their home countries or elsewhere abroad. The Al Nusrah Front is al Qaeda's official branch in Syria.
The airstrike took place between Nov. 17-19, and "struck and destroyed a storage facility associated with the Khorasan Group," CENTCOM said in a press release.
The US has now launched 15 air and cruise missile strikes on four different days against al Qaeda's network in Syria since the air campaign inside Syria began on Sept. 22.
Eight airstrikes targeted al Qaeda's network west of Aleppo on Sept. 22, five more strikes hit the group in Sarmada on Nov. 5, and another attack was launched west of Aleppo between Nov. 12-14.
CENTCOM has attempted to make a distinction between the so-called Khorasan Group and the Al Nusrah Front, even though they are one in the same. CENTCOM's own targeting shows this.
The targets of the strikes on Sept. 22, Nov. 5, and the latest attack hit Al Nusrah Front infrastructure, which is used to wage the group's local insurgency against the Assad regime (CENTCOM did not disclose the target of the strike that occurred between Nov. 12-14). Among the targets hit were IED-making facilities, a munitions production facility, a storage facility, a communication building, command and control facilities, training camps, staging areas for fighters, and vehicles. For more information on CENTCOM's distinctions between the Khorasan Group and the Al Nusrah Front, see LWJ report, US airstrike targets al Qaeda in Syria.
November 18, 2014 1:29 PM
By Oren Adaki
Yesterday, a Twitter account linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed credit for a series of attacks that took place in several Yemeni provinces between Nov. 11 and Nov. 17. The Twitter account also apologized for the five days of media silence that preceded the release of yesterday's statements, claiming that the "temporary shutdown" was due to ongoing "battle conditions."
First, AQAP claimed credit for three improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in Hadramout province aimed at Yemeni military personnel. The first of these attacks took place on Nov. 11, targeting a Yemeni armored vehicle as it traveled along the road linking Wadi Sirr and Shibam city in Wadi Hadramout. Although the terror group admitted it could not determine the number of casualties and wounded resulting from the attack, it did note that the Yemeni army had confirmed that two soldiers were killed and five others were injured.
According to AQAP, the second attack in Hadramout also took place on Nov. 11, along the main road linking the city of Mukallah with the Khalaf region on the coast. AQAP claimed that a Yemeni Special Forces officer named Ra'ed Ghaleb Awwad was killed and three other soldiers were wounded in the IED attack. Additionally, the AQAP statement alleged that the Yemeni military personnel targeted were driving a civilian vehicle and that the soldiers wounded in the attack were members of Yemen's military police.
The third attack in Hadramout took place on Nov. 16, along the road connecting the cities of Seyoun and al Qatn. The AQAP statement said two Yemeni tanks and one armored vehicle were targeted in the attack, but that only the last tank was hit. AQAP again indicated that "it was not possible to accurately determine the enemy losses resulting from the detonation of the IED."
Fighting also continued in Yemen's central Baydah province, the site of intense clashes between AQAP and the Shiite Houthi rebels for the past month. AQAP claimed that fighting broke out at 11:00 a.m. on Nov. 12 between Sunni tribesmen and AQAP fighters on one side and the Houthi rebels on the other. The statement indicated that the battles erupted in the al-Alib section of Manasseh in Radaa and that AQAP fighters set fire to a Houthi military vehicle. AQAP also claimed credit for an IED attack that took place on Nov. 16 targeting a Houthi military vehicle in the al-Hamma region of Baydah. No casualties were reported by AQAP.
AQAP also carried out an IED operation in the Dayqa valley in Abyan's Mahfad region, a longstanding stronghold of the terrorist group, on the morning of Nov. 16. AQAP claimed that the attack took place at precisely 9:30 a.m. and killed two Yemeni soldiers.
And finally, AQAP claimed to have assassinated a Houthi leader on Nov. 17 in the central Yemeni province of Dhamar, which had been seized by Houthi rebels with virtually no opposition in mid-October. According to the terror group's statement, AQAP fighters opened fire at 11:00 a.m. as Houthi leader Khaled al-Washli was near the Anas public market in Dhamar. Notably, the AQAP statement asserted that the attack was carried out by Ansar al Sharia's al-Farouq Brigade. In 2012, the US Department of State identified Ansar al Sharia as an alias for AQAP.
"Weapons looted by mujahideen of Ansar al Sharia from the Houthis - Radaa."
[Note: The stickers on the rifles and magazines show images of Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi as well as the Houthi logo "Allahu Akbar, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse Upon the Jews, Victory to Islam."]
November 18, 2014 12:01 PM
By Bill Roggio
We've written quite a bit about the Pakistani military and political establishment's support of or indifference to the so-called "good Taliban," or the Taliban and jihadist groups that do not wage jihad inside Pakistan yet enable those groups that do. In fact, our reporting on this subject is the primary reason that the Pakistani government has banned The Long War Journal inside its country.
Yesterday, Sartaj Aziz, the adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, spoke about this issue. The report on his talk, from Dawn, is republished below. Aziz is smart enough to not voice his support of the good Taliban -- groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group, both of which wage jihad against the US in Afghanistan while sheltering and supporting al Qaeda and other international jihadist groups. Instead, Aziz makes the "it's not our problem" argument:
Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz on Monday said that Pakistan should not target militants who do not threaten the country's security.
For longtime readers of The Long War Journal, Aziz's comments should come as no surprise. Since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Pakistan has operated just as Aziz articulated yesterday.
November 16, 2014 7:49 AM
By Caleb Weiss
The Islamic State has released new photographs showing heavy fighting in the central Iraqi city of Ramadi. More than half of Ramadi is said to be under the control of the Islamic State.
The images were disseminated on Twitter by Islamic State supporters after being posted elsewhere on the Internet. The jihadist group has taken to releasing its propaganda via its supporters on Twitter, as the majority of its official accounts are continuously being suspended by the social media site.
The photos bear the title of "Wilayat Anbar," one of the Islamic State's 18 declared provinces.
The pictures appear to show heavy street fighting, with small arms fire from both AK-47 assault rifles and PK machine guns. Several photos showcase the use of rocket launchers and mortars. In one photograph, the Islamic State demonstrates the use of an American made Humvee to fire on Iraqi military or Sunni tribal militia positions. Ramadi is at the epicenter of the Sahwa (Awakening) movement and is home to Ahmed Abu Risha, a powerful tribal leader and key US ally. The Abu Risha and other Sunni Anbar tribes have been fighting alongside the Iraqi military in Ramadi, Amiriyat al Fallujah, Haditha, and other towns and cities throughout the province.
Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, is currently besieged by the Islamic State. While reporting has been sparse recently, the jihadist group is said to control around 60 percent of the city. The southern districts of Al Tam'im, Mua'almim, Thubat, and 5 Kilo, in addition to the 7 Kilo and Albu Aytha areas west and north of the city, are either contested or under Islamic State control. Iraqi security forces are said to be concentrated at the Anbar Operations Command Center, which is north of the Euphrates River. [For more information, see LWJ reports, Islamic State photos highlight group's grip on Ramadi and Islamic State ambushes Iraqi military column near Ramadi.]
November 13, 2014 11:45 AM
By Oren Adaki
Source: Al Malehem Media Foundation via Twitter
On Nov. 12, a Twitter account linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a video interview with Jalal al Marqishi, also known as Hamza al Zinjibari, in which the AQAP commander talks about recent developments in the fight against the Shiite Houthi rebels and comments on the nature of the US-Houthi relationship.
Al Marqishi speaks of a "quantum leap" achieved by the efforts of the jihadists in their ongoing battle against the sweeping military advances of the Houthis, whom AQAP deems to be heretic. He claims that recent AQAP operations throughout the country have forced the Houthis to retreat and and given AQAP the upper hand.
Al Mariqishi makes specific reference to an operation earlier this month in which the AQAP fighters stormed Houthi positions in Radaa from three directions, and notes that the attack enabled the jihadists to reach the "depth of the city" and forced the Houthis to retreat to its outskirts. Al Marqishi also cites the triple suicide attack carried out by a four-man team of AQAP fighters on Nov. 8 in the Manasseh area of Radaa. During that attack, four AQAP fighters stormed a local school, believed by AQAP to be used as a Houthi gathering point and weapons storage facility, and immediately clashed with the Houthis on site. The first AQAP attacker launched a missile at a Houthi checkpoint in front of the school and subsequently detonated his suicide belt amid a Houthi crowd, killing some 25 people immediately. Two other suicide bombers also detonated their explosives shortly after the first, while the fourth AQAP attacker managed to emerge unscathed from the clashes at the school that lasted for about 12 hours.
Marqishi goes on to claim that in a battle that occurred just an hour before the recording of the interview, AQAP repelled a Houthi advance on the town of Khabza in the Radaa region, killing more than 30 Houthis and taking an impressive cache of weapons as booty.
At this juncture, Marqishi turns to address suspicions of possible US-Houthi collusion against AQAP. He claims that the UN Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, is a "broker" between the US and the Houthis who personally oversaw the Houthi takeover of Sanaa and many other Yemeni cities and military bases.
Al Marqishi explicitly claims that the US has been providing direct air support for the Houthis by using drone strikes to facilitate Houthi advances against AQAP. To prove this theory, he cites the Oct. 24 drone strike in Manasseh targeting AQAP fighters, noting that it paved the way for the Houthis to take the area. Additionally, al Marqishi says that during fierce battles in Radaa between AQAP and Houthi forces, US drone strikes killed prominent members of the terrorist organization, including Shawki al Ba'adani, Abu Osama al Hodeidi, Abu Osama al Sana'ani, and Muhid al Qurashi. Later the same night, additional US drone strikes killed Nabil al Dahab and Maysar al Adani, as well as other AQAP supporters from the town of Khabza.
Al Marqishi concludes this section of his interview by emphasizing the veracity of US-Houthi cooperation. He says, "We confirm by way of field information and information reported to us that this agreement is true and we have witnessed its reality."
In the final section of his interview, al Marqishi addresses the role of Yemen's Sunni tribes in AQAP's campaign against the rebels. He notes that the Sunni tribes play a large role in the campaign and provides examples of tribal efforts to stem the Houthi advance. Al Marqishi cites the Sunni tribes' pushing the Houthis out of Jawf province, as well as the Tayfa tribe of Radaa who "fight alongside the mujahideen."
Al Marqishi addresses Yemen's Sunni tribesmen, saying, "We would like to tell the Sunni tribes that the American and Iranian project is a singular project that seeks to humiliate the Sunni tribes, control their land, and enable the rafidha [derogatory word for Shiites] to take Yemen."
In an effort to paint the current Houthi rebellion as inherently sectarian in nature, al Marqishi claims that the Houthis have prevented Sunnis from attending Friday prayers in areas they control and have even stripped Sunni tribesmen of their arms.
Al Marqishi concludes his interview by calling on the Sunni tribes to support AQAP's offensive against the Houthis. "We call upon all tribes to be cohesive and work shoulder to shoulder with the mujahideen to fight the rafidhi [Shiite] Houthis because there is an international conspiracy against the Sunnis," al Marqishi says. "The Sunni tribes must realize this and gather around the mujahideen."
November 12, 2014 12:21 PM
By Caleb Weiss
Fighters from the al Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party have allegedly been photographed on the battlefields of northern Syria. The picture above was posted to Twitter by Israfil Yilmaz, a popular jihadist figure fighting in Syria. Yilmaz wrote in the tweet: "No passports, undercover through more than 6 countries. Lions from the Turkistan region: Al Hizb Islami Turkistan [Turkistan Islamic Party ]."
Yilmaz is a Dutch citizen of Turkish origin. He is a former member of the Royal Dutch Armed Forces, as well as the Turkish military. On his now suspended Ask.fm account, he claimed to have been in Syria for more than two years and he does not consider himself a member of any group. According to From Chechnya to Syria, Yilmaz has previously fought alongside Sayfullah Shishani's jamaat, a predominately Chechen faction of the Al Nusrah Front. It is also clear from an interview he conducted with a Dutch channel (the video is in Turkish) that Yilmaz has acted as a military trainer.
The Turkistan Islamic Party operates in China as well as Central and South Asia and is thought to have scores of fighters in Pakistan's tribal areas and in Afghanistan. Its fighters have been killed by Coalition forces in Afghanistan and by US drone strikes in Pakistan. A senior al Qaeda leader has eulogized Turkistan Islamic Party operatives killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. For more information on the group's operations, see the LWJ report, Turkistan Islamic Party touts suicide bombings in Afghanistan.
November 11, 2014 4:13 PM
By Caleb Weiss
The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria, has released both video and pictures detailing a large military parade in Idlib province. The media were released through Nusrah's Twitter feed for its Idlib operations. The pictures bear the caption of "Men of Tawhid [monotheism] and belief in the abodes of Islam," while the video bears the title of "Jabhat al Nusrah, protectors of the mouths of Muslims in Idlib".
The column includes light vehicles, such as SUVs, Jeeps, technicals (armed pickup trucks) and vans, mixed in with heavy vehicles. Several T-72 tanks are shown, as well as a pair of 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers, BMPs (infantry fighting vehicles), and several large trucks.
Some unconfirmed reports allege that the parade showcased vehicles captured from recent fighting with the US-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF). Earlier this month, Al Nusrah and its allies, including Jund al Aqsa, drove the SRF out of its stronghold in Deir Sonbol in the Jabal al Zawiya area of Idlib.
A Nusrah fighter claimed on Twitter that the vehicles were indeed captured from the SRF. However, Al Nusrah has not released an official statement confirming or denying this report nor were the pictures captioned to say that the vehicles were taken from the SRF. The Nusrah fighter is also not an official within the group.
Pictures released by Al Nusrah:
November 10, 2014 11:23 AM
By Oren Adaki
Turki al Asiri, a.k.a. Marwan al Makki. Source: Twitter.
Circumstances of death
The AQAP statement claims that at 3:00 a.m. on Nov. 7, a Yemeni counterterrorism unit accompanied by "people speaking Arabic in a foreign language" attacked Turki al Asiri's residence in Yemen's southern port city of Aden. The statement suggested that the Yemeni unit used an explosive to gain entry to the residence before storming in and clashing with al Asiri for several minutes prior to his being killed.
The firefight inside al Asiri's house apparently woke up his neighbors, who watched from their windows as the Yemeni forces carried several corpses outside of the house before leaving the scene. About three hours later, additional Yemeni forces allegedly arrived and "stole" the personal belongings of those who lived in the house, including such items as "women's gold."
The statement additionally notes that AQAP's retelling of Asiri's death is at odds with the official narrative relayed by the media. According to the reports promulgated by the Yemeni Ministry of Defence, Asiri was killed by security forces at a checkpoint in the Tabin region of Lahj province.
Turki al Asiri's biography
A Saudi Arabian national, al Asiri traveled to Afghanistan in 2001, where he received instruction at "mujahideen training camps." Al Asiri fought against the Americans following the US invasion of Afghanistan and even participated in the battles at Tora Bora alongside Osama bin Laden. Al Asiri fled to Pakistan like many al Qaeda operatives, and he was held captive by the Pakistani regime for a time before being handed over to the Americans. According to his biography in the AQAP statement, the US detained al Asiri in Kandahar before transferring him to "the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba where he remained for nearly six years." The US then reportedly handed al Asiri to Saudi Arabia, where he was detained for a period before being "temporarily" released.
In 2008, al Asiri made his way to Yemen accompanied by Sa'id al Shihri, who would soon become AQAP's deputy, and quickly joined the ranks of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Due to his terrorist activities, Saudi Arabia listed al Asiri among the country's 85 most wanted individuals. Al Asiri eventually became AQAP's emir for Lahj province, and his biography praises him for not leaving this post until he was martyred.
The AQAP biography describes al Asiri as a gentle and humble man who reserved his sternness and gravity for "the enemies of Allah, the infidels." He is reported to have told his American jailers, "I am a mujahid from al Qaeda, I have fought you and will continue to fight you, with Allah's permission." He was known to carry out and orchestrate a variety of attacks in Lahj province, including raids, assassinations, and bombing attacks. His biography concludes by saying, "he ended his life the way he lived it - fighting valiantly and not surrendering himself to his enemies."
November 7, 2014 12:02 PM
By Caleb Weiss
Alleged video of slain Al Nusrah bomb maker David Drugeon's vehicle, taken by Syrian activists in Sarmada, Idlib
Video surfaced on Facebook late Nov. 5 alleging to show the aftermath of a United States airstrike in Idlib. A number of recent airstrikes, as we now know, were targeting the Khorasan Group, a collection of al Qaeda veterans embedded within the Al Nusrah Front.
US Central Command announced that "US military forces conducted airstrikes last night against five Khorasan Group targets in the vicinity of Sarmada, Syria, using bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft" in a press release yesterday.
"We are still assessing the outcome of the attack, but have initial indications that it resulted in the intended effects by striking terrorists and destroying or severely damaging several Khorasan Group vehicles and buildings assessed to be meeting and staging areas, IED-making facilities and training facilities," the release continued.
Fox News reported that David Drugeon, a French defector to al Qaeda and a master bomb maker, was targeted in the airstrikes.
"The drone struck a vehicle traveling in Syria's Idlib province that was believed to be carrying Drugeon. The driver of the vehicle is thought to have lost a leg and was expected to die, according to sources with knowledge of the operation. A second person thought to be Drugeon was killed, according to well-placed military sources," Fox News reported.
Local activists reported that a destroyed vehicle at the scene of the strike belonged to an Al Nusrah Front official.
Based on the video above, the viewer can see that the vehicle was hit with precision, as nothing surrounding it appeared to be damaged. Furthermore, US Central Command confirmed that airstrikes did occur in the town of Samarda. The video above could possibly show the vehicle in which Drugeon was traveling when he was allegedly killed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that the Islamic Front's Ahrar al Sham, an al Qaeda ally, was also targeted. SOHR said that an Ahrar headquarters was targeted near the Bab al Hawa border crossing. This seems to fit a report made by an Ahrar fighter on the night of the strikes which said that an Ahrar arms depot near Bab al Hawa was targeted. A video was also posted to YouTube from an alleged Ahrar member delivering a similar statement.
CENTCOM did not state that it targeted Ahrar al Sham in the Nov. 5 airstrikes. Ahrar al Sham is closely allied with the Al Nusrah Front.