AQAP raid decimates Yemeni mechanized battalion

The toll from last Sunday’s raid by an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula assault force against a Yemeni Army base in Al Koud continues to rise as the bodies of more soldiers are recovered. AQAP is now thought to have killed 185 Yemeni troops, wounded more than 150, and captured another 55. According to Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee, “about 60 soldiers were detained and taken to the Taliban-style Al Qaeda-declared Islamic Emirate of Jaar in the southern province of Abyan on Sunday morning,” where they were forced to train AQAP fighters on some of the heavy equipment captured during the raid.

The Guardian reports that AQAP mutilated some of the bodies of the slain Yemeni soldiers and dumped them in the desert:

Medical officials in the area confirmed the latest death toll and said some of the bodies of soldiers recovered were missing their heads and bore multiple stab wounds. They said the military hospital morgue was packed with bodies, and some were taken to vegetable freezers in a military compound for lack of space.

A senior military official said the attack left his soldiers “fearful of al-Qaida because of the barbarism and brutality of their attack”.

“Al-Qaida managed to deal a blow to the army’s morale. Imagine how soldiers feel when they see the bodies of their comrades dumped in the desert,” he said.

Military officials had earlier said militants overran the base and captured armoured vehicles and artillery pieces, which they turned on the army.

The official said the soldiers were taken unawares. “It was a massacre and it came by surprise as the soldiers were asleep,” he said. Militants sneaked behind army lines and attacked from the rear where there was “zero surveillance”.

Some Yemeni journalists are claiming that the outgoing commander of the decimated armored battalion had provided vital information that allowed AQAP to overrun the camp.

Whether or not AQAP used inside information to overrun the camp, it scored a major victory over the Yemeni Army. The AQAP assault force rendered nearly 400 Yemeni soldiers killed, captured, or wounded, essentially neutralizing an entire armored brigade in an area where the Yemeni military has struggled to contain the terror group.

At LWJ and Threat Matrix, we’ve noted several times that AQAP forces on the ‘Zinjibar front’ have prevented a division of Yemeni troops – which consists of one armored, one mechanized, and one infantry brigade – from retaking the provincial capital for nearly a year (AQAP first gained control of Zinjibar in May 2011).

Many analysts scoffed when AQAP announced (twice) in 2010 that it was forming a 12,000-man army in Abyan and Aden provinces to establish its caliphate. Perhaps the number is exaggerated a bit. But given AQAP’s military prowess on the Zinjibar front, and its ability to continually replenish its ranks, perhaps AQAP didn’t exaggerate by all that much.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Will Fenwick says:

    Given that a Yemeni brigade has between 1000 – 1500 troops in it, there are likely at least 4000 Yemeni army soldiers engaged in Zinjibar. That means on Sunday
    8 to 10% of the government force in Zinjibar were eliminated. I would expect an AQAP force of at least several thousand is present in Zinjibar with a couple thousand more garrisoning the other southern cities, there are also some AQAP elements in the north among the several thousand Salafist fighters holding Dammaj.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    This is obviously very serious. Although AQAP lied about the killing of a CIA agent, they certainly didn’t lie about this. The Yemeni Army needs to be Trained by the best, that means Green Berets…And we need to up our CIA and Drone presence in Yemen untill the govt. can get their act together and take down AQAP by themselves. Yemen is probably the most dangerous Al Qaida affiliate out there trying to attack America, and Obama needs to get on the ball and take this incident very seriously!

  • wallbangr says:

    I have been dying to know how it is that these guys went to sleep without setting a perimeter. I suppose the media assertion that the outgoing commander gave the enemy an in would explain. That chap had better hang if it proves true. Good day for AQAP. Terrible day for the Yemeni military forces.

  • Llowell Schweigert says:

    AQ longer needs Afghanistan as a primary safe haven. They’ve got Yemen. Free of Western ground forces, closer to Europe and Jerusalem and poised like a dagger at the throat of Saudi Arabia. Brace yourself for more change.

  • Neo says:

    This has suddenly gotten way out of hand.
    They seriously might want to seriously consider offering the Yemeni government some direct help on this. I realize that there are huge repercussions associated with any large scale military raid, but the current situation may be at the point where the benefits outweighs the risks. It is clear that Yemen isn’t up to the magnitude of the problem and things are going to quickly get out of hand unless something is done about it.
    A large scale raid to neutralize all monitored Al Qaeda targets in South Yemen would be something to consider. I would give such a raid about 72 hours before the political outcry became shrill enough to have serious blowback. Three days on the ground should be enough time to neutralize, confirm, and do any associated follow up on targets. If their location is known, take them down.
    Now, would be the time to do such a raid, while the Al Qaeda’s presence on the ground is still somewhat localized. It is clear that the Yemeni army cannot contain them, and the situation is just going to get much more complex. Prior to this, there was some chance the Yemeni’s could at least slow these guys down. That isn’t going to happen. This is probably the last real chance at “nipping this problem in the bud” before it really starts to destabilize both South & North Yemen.
    It would not wipe out Al Qaeda in Yemen, but would set them back enough that the Yemeni government has a reasonable chance of dealing with the problem. Indirect methods normally are a preference but in this case take far too much time to develop. There are times when direct action is the simplest course.

  • My2Cents says:

    Get the Saudi’s to go in on the ground with US support from the air and intelligence. Since the Saudi’s are Arabs they can get away with a lot in the world press that the US cannot, like targeting the tribes allied to al-Qaeda. Because of the past relations between the countries it will be difficult for al-Qaeda to argue that the Saudi’s are there to support the old government, instead of only being after al-Qaeda and its supporters. And the last thing that Saudi Arabia wants is an al-Qaeda safe area and bases on their border.


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