Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has opened a new training camp in the South. The new camp highlights Yemen’s value to al Qaeda in waging its global terror campaign.
The camp is based in the Al Jaza area in the district of Mudiyah in the southern province of Abyan. The camp is said to house more than 400 local and foreign fighters. Yemenis, Saudis, and Somalis make up the vast majority of the fighters.
The camp was established with the approval of the central government, according to a report in Saru Hamyir, an Arabic-language Yemeni news website. The existence of the camp was confirmed by US military and intelligence officials familiar with the region.
The weak Yemeni government is known to support al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula while targeting jihadi groups that do not adhere to a peace agreement signed in January.
The government supports the group in exchange for trained fighters to battle the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Sa’dah in the North. The government is currently battling the Houthi rebels in a fight that dragged in the Saudis when the Houthis attacked and took control of a border checkpoint.
This is the second known camp in operation in Abyan. In the spring, al Qaeda opened a camp in the Ahboosh mountains, north of the city of Ja’ar.
Earlier this week, the government claimed to have detained Sami Dayan, al Qaeda’s leader in Abyan province, along with six other al Qaeda operatives. Dayan was captured at the border with Saudi Arabia while attempting to flee Yemen, The Yemen Post reported.
The military launched a major operation in Abyan in the spring under the guise of restoring its writ in the province, but targeted only the groups that deviated from the January peace agreement.
Yemen has become one of al Qaeda’s most secure bases as well as a hub for activities on the Arabian Peninsula and on the Horn of Africa.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based in Yemen and carries out its attacks against the Saudi government from there. The group is also known to operate terror camps in Aden, and in the Alehimp and Sanhan regions in Sana’a. It has conducted attacks on oil facilities, tourists, Yemeni security forces, and the US embassy in Sana’a.
The terror group has also been instrumental in supporting al Qaeda’s operation in Somalia, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Yemen serves as a command and control center, a logistics hub, a transit point from Asia and the Peninsula, and a source of weapons and munitions for the al Qaeda-backed Shabaab and Hizbul Islam.
“Yemen is Pakistan in the heart of the Arab world,” one official said. “You have military and government collusion with al Qaeda, peace agreements, budding terror camps, and the export of jihad to neighboring countries.”
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.