AQAP expands in south Yemen
Nadia Al-Sakkaf (author)
Location(s): Point no. 1, Point no. 2
Nov. 16 – Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is using Yemen as its operational base, has taken over a town in Abyan governorate after an armed battle with state security on Tuesday.
The Yemeni army has been fighting for control of Abyan, in the south of the country, since March this year but according to locals, AQAP militants seem to be winning.
Video from YouTube
“There are so many displaced people who fled their homes due to intensive shelling between the state and the Islamists,” said Muna Mohammed a local of Ja’ar town in Abyan, which was under the control of AQAP since May. “They are exercising what they believe as Sharia law and it is scaring us.”
The locals also commented that there are surveillance planes, which they suspect to be American, passing over the governorate.
The latest town to fall into the hands of the terrorist group overlooks the Gulf of Aden, making it a strategic location.
AQAP had already taken over towns in the neighboring governorate of Shabwa, such as Azzan, by the end of last month – just three weeks after US unmanned drones killed American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki.
Moreover, only two days ago the three French aid workers who were kidnapped in May were released through Omani interventions. The aid workers were said to be kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in Sayoun, Hadramout, although tribal sources
said that the kidnapping was not an act of AQAP but rather Yemeni tribes. This notion was strengthened by the fact that the kidnappers demanded a ransom of USD 12 million, which would have been unusual for Al-Qaeda.
An unspecified amount was eventually paid to the kidnappers through the support of the Sultanate of Oman and Yemeni businessmen.
Yemeni authorities said on Monday that leaders of the Al-Awalaq tribe, where Anwar Al-Awlaki originated, mediated the release of the oreigners and negotiated with the terrorist group.
Following Al-Awlaki’s death last month the group vowed revenge announcing that his legacy would live on through his followers. However, the Yemeni authorities announced the death of 10 Al-Qaeda militants on Wednesday, as a
number of the Islamic group’s bases in the Abyan capital Zunjubar and the fallen town of Al-Koud were shelled.
The state announced that the killed militants were Yemenis, Somalis and Pakistanis. Unconfirmed sources said there might be Iranians among them as well. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had already announced in May that it was forming an international army of at least 12,000 militants making use of the instability in the country caused by the uprising.