Involved in: Providing finances, Training grounds, Aid for terrorists, Human rights atrocities;
Profit: Keep the citizens under fear, Damage on domestic democracy;
Spreading: Government propaganda, Fear;
Providing for Terrorists: Arms, Funds, Ground, Camps, Training;
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network operating in Yemen , has evolved into an ambitious organization capable of using non-traditional recruits to launch attacks against American targets within the Middle East and beyond. Evidence of its potential became front-page news after a young Nigerian trained at one of its camps in Yemen tried to blow up a passenger aircraft bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.
The suspected bomber was a Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who had overstayed an education visa in Yemen by several months and had undergone explosives training at one of the remote Al Qaeda camps.
The group has grown more dangerous by taking advantage of the weakened central government in Yemen, which is struggling with civil conflicts and declining natural resources.
Training camps established in remote parts of Yemen by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are being run by former detainees and veteran fighters from Afghanistan and Iraq and are used to instruct U.S. and other citizens who have immigrated to Yemen to marry local women or after converting to Islam in American prisons.
In Yemen, the limited reach of the central government and changes in the country’s demographics have permitted extremists to thrive.
The weak central government and alarming socioeconomic changes in Yemen have provided opportunities for terrorist groups to build and maintain a presence. Worsening socioeconomic trends have the potential to overwhelm the Yemeni government, further jeopardizing domestic stability and security across the region.
AQAP, the primary terrorist group in the country, is closely linked to Al Qaeda. The local affiliate is led by a Yemeni militant who was involved in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in which 17 American sailors were killed. He was among 23 Al Qaeda fighters who escaped from a Yemeni prison in February 2006, reportedly with help from security officials. The group’s deputy is a Saudi citizen who was released from Guantanamo in November 2007. After completing a Saudi government-sponsored rehabilitation program, he slipped south into Yemen and returned to militancy.
There are significant Al Qaeda populations in Yemen. As Al Qaeda members continue to resist U.S. and Pakistani forces along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, some of their comrades appear to be moving to Yemen, where the political climate allows them to seek safe haven, recruit new members, and train for future operations.
Yemen is reemerging as a jihadist battleground and potential regional base of operations for Al Qaeda to plan internal and external attacks, train terrorists, and facilitate the movement of operatives.
The Republic of Yemen government, in partnership with the Saudi-led coalition, controlled less Yemeni territory at the end of 2020 than it did in 2019. The Republic of Yemen government’s loss of control over additional parts of its territory resulted from political and military tensions in the South and Houthi advances in other governorates of the country.
In the South the STC temporarily declared “self-administration” between April and July, which was not recognized by the international community. Negotiations to implement the 2019 Riyadh Agreement culminated in the December 30 return of a newly formed government to Aden, but this failed to eliminate tensions in the South, where AQAP and ISIS-Yemen maintained significant areas of influence.
Concurrently, Houthi militants who controlled the de jure capital of Sana’a and surrounding northwest highlands, as well as the port city of Hudaydah, made key advances eastward and southward to parts of the governorates of al-Jawf, al-Bayda, and Ma’rib. Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), ISIS-Yemen, and Iranian and Iran-backed terrorist groups such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and Hizballah exploited the political and security vacuum created by conflict between the internationally recognized Republic of Yemen government and the Houthis, as well as conflict between the government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC). Additionally, IRGC-QF exploited the conflict to expand Iran’s influence and enable Houthi cross-border terrorist attacks against Saudi Arabia.
The Republic of Yemen government controlled roughly two thirds of the country’s territory, although Houthi-controlled areas contained 70 percent to 80 percent of the population, including the capital, Sana’a. Implementation of the 2019 Riyadh Agreement, which called for a power-sharing agreement between the government and the STC, was incomplete and failed to eliminate tensions in the South, where AQAP turned for safe haven following Houthi gains in al-Bayda governorate.