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AQAP announces formation of new armed group



On March 31, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) announced the formation of a new armed group called "Ansar al Shariah in the Central Regions." The militant organization claimed that the new group's purpose is to combat the Shiite Houthi rebels based in Yemen's northern Sa'adah province. The announcement also included sharp criticism of the Yemeni government and alleged that Sana'a was involved in a conspiracy aiming to strengthen the Shiite insurgents.

Sa'adah province has been the site of an ongoing Houthi insurgency against the central government in Sana'a since 2004, when the Yemeni military killed Hussein Badr al Deen al Houthi, the Shiite group's commander. AQAP inaugurated Ansar al Sharia in 2012 in an effort to rebrand itself and garner more support for the terrorist organization. This new armed group is likely a subgroup of Ansar al Sharia expressly focused on attacks targeting the Houthis.

The terror group's statement also mentioned the March 28 raid by the Yemeni military on an apartment housing AQAP operatives in al Dalea province, saying it was part of the conspiracy against al Qaeda that served Houthi interests. "The East and the West are involved" in the conspiracy, AQAP charged, and urged Sunnis everywhere to wake up and realize the extent of the conspiracy. Additionally, the statement directly threatened both the Yemeni security forces and the Houthi rebels.

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READER COMMENTS: "AQAP announces formation of new armed group"

Posted by Brandon Scott at April 7, 2014 12:48 PM ET:

If AQAP begins to specifically target Houthis and Shia in Yemen via “Ansar al Shariah in the Central Regions”, particularly outside of Sa’ada we will probably see the beginning of civil war. Hitherto, there has been little sectarian violence in Yemen outside of the past Sa’ada conflicts and the current one still simmering that picked back up last year. The Salafists in Sa’ada were wise to reject AQAP’s support (at least publicly) when they offered it last year. It seems that AQAP is now paralleling / forcing the support to target the Houthis and Shia in Yemen. Being that AQAP does not really have much reach into Sa’ada and is mostly in the south en-mass and occasionally in Sana’a (all places where there is limited sectarian divide, we are likely going to see dramatic increased sectarian violence outside of Sa’ada which will pose grave dangers for the new post-NDC Yemen. This scenario is reminiscent of 2006 al-Askari Mosque bombing in Iraq that many argue was done by Al Qaeda and subsequently caused an all out civil war between Sunnis and Shia.

Posted by Paul L at April 15, 2014 10:01 AM ET:

I have to disagree Brandon. The risk is there, certainly. But I think the odds of this new wing being a catalyst for increased sectarian violence are low. The Houthis' appeal has spread beyond their geographic territory. Their willingness to take on (and defeat) traditional power brokers (the government, the Al Ahmars) has gained them the favor of people expressing anti-establishment sentiments across sects.

It's also a stretch to compare AQAP's announcement to the Askari Mosque bombing. That mosque's unique place in Twelver Shi'i Islam and its sacred status as the tomb of two Imams simply isn't replicated here. That attack was pregnant with religious symbolism and sectarian defamation, cutting to the core of the victims' religious beliefs. The AQAP announcement just doesn't compare to that.