AQAP fighter fires a rocket-propelled grenade at Houthi positions
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda’s official branch in Yemen, has released high-quality footage of its fighters in the strategic southern city of Taiz. In some of the scenes, the jihadists are shown engaging in street-to-street fighting with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
The video, entitled “Battle of al Jahmaliyah,” starts with the jihadists interviewing the citizens of Taiz about the “Houthi offenses” on them. Destroyed buildings, along with dead and wounded civilians, are shown after a purported Houthi attack in one of the city’s districts. The video then cuts to civilians discussing this attack and jihadists preparing to fight the Shiite rebels. The fighting begins when an AQAP fighter fires a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at a Houthi-controlled building.
Additional fighters engage Houthis with other small arms fire from different variants of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, PK machine guns, and DShK heavy machine guns. Much of the combat is house-to-house fighting, both in the day and at night, before footage switches to a first-person view of a fighter wearing an action camera. The jihadist commands forces through the streets before being wounded on-screen after trying to cross a street.
Taiz, the cultural capital of Yemen, is currently contested between the Houthis and their pro-Ali Abdullah Saleh allies, and pro-Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi forces. AQAP is also vying for power in the strategic southern city. This video has been released just a few weeks after government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, reported success in Taiz. The forces loyal to Hadi reported that they made gains in the mountains just outside the city. Additionally, the UAE has said that it is sending more troops to the area to help in the “liberation of the besieged city of Taiz.”
Despite making gains against the Houthis in Marib, Aden, and other provinces, the Saudis and their allies are paying a price for their intervention in Yemen. The UAE has lost the most troops in combat since its establishment in 1971, while many Saudi troops have been killed in both Yemen and in southern Saudi Arabia. The coalition continues to see armored vehicles and even US-supplied Abrams tanks captured or destroyed in both of the aforementioned countries. [For more information, see LWJ reports, Gulf states pay price for intervention against Houthis in Yemen and Gulf states continue to pay price in Yemen despite advances.]
And while the coalition is focused on combating the Houthis, the intervention has had the effect of strengthening AQAP.
The jihadist group has been able to exploit the chaotic situation and make several gains in the country. AQAP captured the coastal city of Mukallah in Hadramout province in April and freed over 300 prisoners after overrunning the city’s prison. As the Houthis were overrunning Sanaa, the group was able to capture a military base in Shabwa province. AQAP reportedly also captured several districts inside the strategic port city of Aden. Additionally, the al Qaeda branch controls ground in Abyan, Al Bayda, Lahj, and Marib provinces.
The Islamic State has a fledgling “wilayat” (province) in the country and has been able to mount several attacks on Shiite mosques. It has also claimed an attack on Gulf forces in Aden, killing 15 Saudi and Emirati soldiers, along with other attacks on Shia civilian targets. In a video released in May, the Islamic State “province” beheaded Yemeni soldiers. However, the Islamic State has been focused on attacking Shiite Muslims in the country.
AQAP has tried to distance itself from attacks on Shiite mosques and other civilian targets, saying that it is “committed to the guidelines” issued by al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, who prohibited “targeting mosques, markets, and public places out of concern for the lives of innocent Muslims, and to prioritize the paramount interests.” AQAP’s strategy of limiting its attacks to military and government targets has built support amongst some Yemeni tribes, which it needs to extend its power in the country. [See LWJ report, Analysis: Why AQAP quickly denied any connection to mosque attacks.]
Screenshots from the video from Taiz:
Grenade thrown at AQAP fighters:
Cameraman wounded after trying to cross a street:
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