Local security officials in the central Yemeni city of Baydah reported a series of attacks carried out by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) early this morning. AQAP fighters attacked several military targets in the city, including a Special Forces headquarters, a police station, and two military checkpoints. While initial reports from the main hospital in the city claimed that at least 10 police officers were killed in the attacks, security officials later said that 11 soldiers were killed in addition to 12 AQAP fighters.
AQAP was quick to take credit for the operations via a Twitter account affiliated with the terrorist group. The statement claimed that the attack against the Special Forces headquarters was carried out by a suicide bomber named Abu Dajjana al Lahji and that the mujahideen had also attacked various security headquarters and a government complex, as well as the Zaher and Izza military checkpoints in the city. In this preliminary statement, AQAP claimed that tens of Yemeni soldiers were killed and injured and that clashes in the city were still ongoing.
The AQAP statement also noted that today’s attacks in Baydah reflect the Houthi rebellion and determination to “fight the Sunnis … with the pretext of combating al Qaeda.” The statement added that it was this determination that legitimized the Houthis in the eyes of the Sana’a government.
In a secondary statement released just two hours after the first, AQAP provided more details about today’s offensive. This statement claimed that AQAP fighters began their “coordinated attacks” at midnight on Wednesday with an initial assault on the main gate of the Special Forces base in order to clear the path for the suicide bomber, Abu Dajjana al Lahji. In order to maximize casualties, al Lahji stormed the base and detonated his explosives beside a building housing Yemeni soldiers. The mujahideen then stormed the base’s command center and set it on fire along with military vehicles that were at the site.
The second statement also alleges that AQAP fighters attacked the Izza checkpoint in the city, but does not mention the attack at the Zaher checkpoint noted in the initial statement. However, AQAP claimed that two soldiers were killed in this assault and that its fighters took full control of the checkpoint and managed to seize two military vehicles as well as anti-aircraft weaponry.
Later in the day, AQAP released a third and final statement , claiming that its fighters had withdrawn from Baydah “following successful attacks carried out simultaneously that lasted for hours against military and security targets.” The statement asserted that today’s operation lasted for nearly five hours, from midnight until dawn, and caused massive material and human losses among the ranks of the Yemeni military.
AQAP’s final statement on the matter concludes with the terrorist group’s justification for the attacks. The statement reads: “[T]he attack came as a result of confirmed reports that the mujahideen received regarding joint meetings held between the rafidi [Shi’ite] Houthis and the military and security leadership in order to arrange the handover of the Special Forces base along with all of its military hardware to the Houthis, under the direct supervision of the military.” The AQAP statement also noted that this alleged “handover” is not the first of its kind, and accuses the Yemeni military of handing over both Amran and Sana’a provinces to the Houthis.
Local sources said that the series of attacks followed a meeting of tribal leaders in the city, some of whom are linked to AQAP, that concluded with a decision to challenge the Shiite Houthi presence in Baydah province. Many of the tribal leaders believe that elements of the security forces in Baydah are sympathetic to the Houthi rebels, and the offensives may have been timed to follow the tribal meeting.
This most recent series of attacks in Baydah underscores the intensification of AQAP’s activity in Yemen in light of the ongoing Shiite Houthi rebellion rocking the country. The Houthis staged a lightning sweep of Sana’a on Sept. 22 and quickly consolidated their power in the capital in the following days. Since then, AQAP has declared an open war against the Houthis and called on Sunnis to take up arms against the Shiite rebels.
AQAP routinely accuses the Yemeni military of collusion with the Houthis, and has begun using the term “the Houthi-turned-military” when referring to the Yemeni armed forces. In a video released last week, AQAP claimed that Yemeni “soldiers have grown used to raising their voices with the rafidi [Shi’ite] Houthi cry during battle.” Exploiting the current political and security chaos in the country, AQAP has been stepping up its attacks against both the Yemeni military and the Houthi rebels.
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