Sat - 25 Jun 2022 - 05:39 PM

written by : Mohammed bin Faisal Writer Archive -

After two suspected al-Qaeda terrorist attacks targeted security forces in Abyan and Shabwah Provinces, resulting in the death and injury of seventeen soldiers; the Governor of Shabwah, Sheikh Awad Al-Wazir Al-Awlaki, vowed to prosecute the perpetrators and secure the checkpoints. The Abyan Security Department also issued a statement calling the province's residents to stand by the security and military forces in their upcoming battle against Al-Qaeda. This call came after Ansar Al-Sharia in Abyan (Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen) threatened attacks against the Security Belt forces and the tribes who support "the pro-Southern Transitional Council forces in Abyan."

Increased Terror Activity in the South

The free movement of AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) and the increase in its activity in the southern provinces, especially in Shabwah, comes after the fall of the political and military cover of the Islah Party (Muslim Brotherhood branch in Yemen). The Islah Party no longer monopolizes the internationally recognized Yemeni government. That is why their military wing in Yemen (al-Qaeda) tries to muddle the situation and attack their original adversary, the southern military and security forces. Thus, we now witness terrorist operations in Shabwah and Abyan. We will see an upsurge in these terrorist operations in the coming days after the Muslim Brotherhood lost its absolute grip on the Yemeni government.

In light of these terrorist attacks in Shabwah and Abyan, we recall the series of terrorist operations that affected Aden after the dismissal of the Islah Party Governor, Nayef al-Bakri, and after pro-South Yemen independence leaders were given political and security roles instead of members of the Al-Islah Party (Muslim Brotherhood affiliate in Yemen).

The Muslim Brotherhood has a strategy and policy manifested in what was known as the "private secret military organization." This strategy—in short—is summed up in resorting to violence and terrorism when the group's interests are threatened. The group may resort to alliances with terrorist organizations, as publicized by the Egyptian intelligence in the recordings of secret calls between Dr. Muhammad Morsi and al-Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, agreeing to protect the group's interests in Egypt in exchange for releasing al-Qaeda detainees and other matters. The Muslim Brotherhood's policy in Yemen, represented by the Al-Islah Party, is part of their global approach and policy.

The alliance between Al-Islah and Al-Qaeda is evident as we witness a series of terrorist operations targeting the southern forces (Shabwah Defense Forces) in particular. However, when the Al-Islah forces controlled Shabwah, we did not witness any terrorist operation targeting the Islah military forces; on the contrary, the leaders and members of al-Qaeda enjoyed safety and free movement under the control of the Islah government. Not long ago, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Qassem Al-Rimi, was killed in the Islah-controlled Ma'rib province; however, Marib did not witness any terrorist operations because the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood lie there.

There is a widespread belief, especially in South Yemen, that AQAP only targets adversaries of the Islah Party. The head of the Dar al-Maaref Center for Research and Statistics, journalist Saeed Bakran, said, "Al-Qaeda had not targeted the Muslim Brotherhood as long as we have known Al-Qaeda. Over the past few decades, al-Qaeda has targeted all local parties except for the Muslim Brotherhood's branch in Yemen (Al-Islah Party). We did not witness terrorist targeting of any Islah headquarters or offices, military camps, or assassinations targeting Islah leaders. The answer is simple; No one targets themselves."

Combating Terror in the Southern Provinces

There is a pressing need for an effective counter-terrorism strategy to combat AQAP militarily and fight the political and government elements that support these terrorist groups. In 2016 the Arab Coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates developed a successful counter-terrorism model that focused on training and arming southern soldiers to combat AQAP and ISIS in the southern provinces. They also worked with local tribes and understood local grievances in the South. This strategy ensured that the tribal leaders and the recruited soldiers would work together to combat AQAP. It proved successful by liberating Mukalla, the capital of Hadhramaut, and large swathes of Abyan and Shabwah provinces. The battlefield successes accomplished by the southern security forces against AQAP were reversed in 2019 after the Islah Party took control of Shabwah and the UAE-backed forces combating AQAP were dismantled—giving al-Qaeda room to regroup.

The United States of America and its allies are making tremendous progress in fighting terrorism in Yemen by targeting the organization's leadership. Nevertheless, AQAP endures in southern Yemen as long as there is no concerted effort to support the capabilities of the southern security forces and as long as there are no measures to restrict the nucleus of al-Qaeda (The Muslim Brotherhood).

* Mohammed bin Faisal is a counter-terrorism researcher from South Yemen, focusing on the religious ideology of terrorist groups.

Published by the American Center for South Yemen Studies on Friday, June 24, 2022. The views expressed in the article represent the author alone.