Category: Jihad of al-Qaida


Apr 15, 2016

AFP

ADEN: Pro-government forces expelled Al-Qaeda fighters from a provincial capital close to Yemen’s second city of Aden on Friday, security officials said.

Soldiers and police drove the jihadists out of Huta, 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Aden, and arrested 49 people suspected militants, they said.

A ceasefire has been in place in Yemen since last Sunday, although fighting is continuing in pockets across the country.

At least 35 pro-government fighters were killed during the first three days of the truce, according to military sources.

The ceasefire is meant to lay the groundwork for forthcoming peace talks in Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-dominated Arab allies are backing the Yemeni government in the conflict while Shiite Iran supports Shiite Huthi rebels, who have seized the capital Sanaa and other regions.

Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have taken advantage of the chaos caused by the war to strengthen their grip on southern Yemen.

Forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi have launched operations against jihadists in recent weeks, backed by the firepower of the Arab coalition.

A military official said the operation to liberate Huta was “designed to secure Aden”, where Hadi’s government has temporarily based itself.

A car bomb exploded on Friday in the port city near a building housing the foreign ministry, without causing casualties, security sources said.

The war has killed more than 6,300 people since March 2015 and worsened already dire conditions in the impoverished country, with more than 80 percent of the population now on the brink of famine.

Source: The New Indian Express.

Link: http://m.newindianexpress.com/news/646461.

Feb. 01, 2016

Agence France Presse

ADEN, Yemen: Al-Qaeda fighters have taken control of a town in southern Yemen on a major road linking two provincial capitals, a local official and tribal chiefs said Monday.

Militants swept unopposed into Azzan, in Shabwa province, before raising the Al-Qaeda flag over public buildings, the sources said.

“The state is absent and it is not surprising that this vacuum is filled by Al-Qaeda,” a local official told AFP.

Azzan lies on the highway between Shabwa province capital Ataq and the city of Mukalla, the capital of the vast desert Hadramawt province overrun by jihadists in April.

According to tribal chiefs, most of the fighters who seized Azzan come from the surrounding area.

Yemen, home to what the United States considers Al-Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliate, has been convulsed by unrest since the Iran-backed Houthis seized Sanaa in September last year.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has exploited the turmoil to tighten its grip on parts of southeast Yemen, including Mukalla, imposing a strict form of Islamic law.

AQAP fighters briefly seized the southern town of Jaar in December in what analysts said was a “show of force” to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Islamist militants, including AQAP and the ISIS group, have also gained ground in and around the main southern city of Aden, where Hadi’s government has established its temporary headquarters.

Source: The Daily Star.

Link: https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2016/Feb-01/334964-al-qaeda-seizes-southern-yemeni-town.ashx.

Feb. 08, 2016

Agence France Presse

ADEN, Yemen: Al-Qaeda overran a police headquarters in a south Yemen provincial capital Saturday, strengthening their grip on the coast road overlooking the Gulf of Aden, security sources said.

Militants, who hold parts of the lawless south of the war-torn country, seized the headquarters in Zinjibar unopposed by pro-government forces who fled the capital of Abyan province, the sources told AFP.

Militants have controlled other government buildings in Zinjibar for weeks and also have a large presence in the nearby town of Jaar.

Also Saturday, a Saudi patrol was hit in the southwestern region of Assir, killing the soldier, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

Later in the day, the southwestern city of Najran was struck, leaving dead a foreign resident, a civil defense spokesman said in a statement on SPA.

About 90 civilians and soldiers have died from shelling and skirmish along the border since March, when the Arab-led military coalition began air and ground action on Yemeni territory.

Earlier this week, Al-Qaeda seized the town of Azzan in neighboring Shabwa province.

They have also seized the towns of Shoqra and Ahwar, giving them complete control of the coast road between their stronghold city of Mukalla in the southeast and the city of Zinjibar.

Zinjibar is only about 50 kilometers from Yemen’s key southern city Aden, the government’s temporary home after the capital Sanaa fell to the Houthi rebels in September 2014.

The security sources also said that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has named Tawfiq Belaidi, brother of Jalal Belaidi who was killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike Thursday, as the “emir [ruler] of Zinjibar.”

The U.S. State Department said Jalal Belaidi was a regional AQAP emir responsible for multiple provinces in Yemen.

The United States had offered a $5 million reward for information on Belaidi over his alleged involvement in plotting bomb attacks on Western diplomatic officials and facilities in Sanaa in 2013.

The U.S. has kept up strikes on militants during months of fighting between pro-government forces and the Houthi rebels who control large parts of Yemen.

Loyalists backed by a Saudi-led coalition have recaptured Aden, Lahj, Abyan, Shabwa, and Daleh from the rebels since July.

But the Saudi-led coalition has so far not targeted militants including AQAP and Daesh (ISIS), who have gained ground in the south, attacking government officials and clashing with loyalist forces.

Source: The Daily Star.

Link: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2016/Feb-08/336136-al-qaeda-tightens-its-grip-on-south-yemen-coast.ashx.

April 17, 2015

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Al-Qaida’s Yemen branch routed government forces from a large weapons depot in the country’s east on Friday, seizing dozens of tanks, Katyusha rocket launchers and small arms, security officials said, as airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition intensified in the capital, Sanaa, and also in Yemen’s second-largest city.

The seized depot is located in Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt — Yemen’s largest province where al-Qaida has been consolidating its control. Only the day before, the militants captured a major airport, an oil terminal and the area’s main military base.

The gains highlight how al-Qaida has exploited the chaos in Yemen, where Shiite rebels are battling forces loyal to exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The Saudi-led air campaign in support of Hadi, now in its fourth week, has so far failed to halt the rebels’ advance.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni affiliate is known, is widely seen as the global network’s most dangerous franchise and has been linked to several failed attacks on the U.S. The group claimed responsibility for the attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris earlier this year.

However, the Saudi-led air campaign has not targeted areas with an al-Qaida presence, including Hadramawt, where the militant group has long been implanted despite U.S. drone strikes and Yemeni counterterrorism operations. The coalition says the airstrikes are aimed at the rebels, known as Houthis, not al-Qaida.

On Friday evening, hundreds of al-Qaida supporters and fighters gathered at a theater in Mukalla to celebrate their victories in the Hadramawt region, singing war songs and chanting slogans. Pro-Hadi forces gained some ground elsewhere in Hadramawt on Friday, with fighters capturing the province’s Masila oilfield, the country’s largest, commander Ahmed Bammas said over the telephone.

On the other side of the country, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes targeting the rebels intensified, with bombings in Sanaa and also Taiz, the country’s second-largest city. The levels of the bombings were their most intense levels since the campaign started on March 26, the security officials said.

Thick plumes of smoke rose high above Sanaa as weapons stores in mountains overlooking the city exploded and burned, while local residents continued to flee the violence, said the officials. In Taiz, the rebels clashed with army units loyal to Hadi, with tanks and heavy machine guns firing throughout the day and airstrikes hitting a military base of the Houthi-allied Republican Guard, the officials said.

Airstrikes also continued in Saada, the Houthis’ northern stronghold, and Aden, the southern port city that the rebels have been trying to take for weeks, in cooperation with forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, they added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Meanwhile, the United Nations urged the international community to provide $274 million in aid to help save lives and protect some 7.5 million people affected by Yemen’s conflict. In a statement, the U.N. said that along with its partners in Yemen, it needed the funds to purchase medical supplies, safe drinking water, food assistance, emergency shelter and to provide logistical support.

Fighting between the rebels and forces loyal to Hadi intensified in March, with the Saudi-led coalition of major Sunni countries in the region launching the airstrikes on March 26. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs says that the turmoil has killed hundreds of people and displaced at least 150,000. UNHCR says shelter is emerging as a pressing humanitarian need in the country.

Earlier in the day, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said that his country had deployed naval and air forces as part of the coalition’s efforts in Yemen, saying that anything else would require him to tell the public. Egypt is currently weighing the idea of holding joint military exercises inside Saudi Arabia.

“If forces go there, the Egyptian people must be the first to know,” he said in a speech at the Military Academy broadcast on private CBC television. “Our forces, I tell you, are naval and air forces only, there is nothing else” in Yemen.

April 17, 2015

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen consolidated control over much of the country’s largest province on Thursday, capturing a major airport, an oil terminal and the area’s main military base, and striking an alliance with local tribal leaders to administer the region.

The gains highlight how al-Qaida has exploited the chaos in Yemen, where Shiite rebels are battling forces loyal to exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A 3-week-old Saudi-led air campaign in support of Hadi has so far failed to halt the rebels’ advance.

Military officials and residents said al-Qaida fighters clashed briefly with members of one of Yemen’s largest brigades outside Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province, which the militants overran earlier this month. The militants then seized control of Riyan airport and moved to secure their hold on the city’s main seaport, which is also an oil terminal.

The security officials, speaking from Sanaa on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press, said the leaders of the brigade in charge of protecting the entire area fled.

Nasser Baqazouz, an activist in the city, said the troops guarding the airport put up little resistance to al-Qaida fighters. “They are consolidating their hold of the city and will paralyze the whole coast of Hadramawt,” he said.

Since March 26, the Saudi-led coalition has been striking the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and allied military units loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. But the strikes have not targeted areas with an al-Qaida presence, including Hadramawt province, where al-Qaida has long maintained a presence despite U.S. drone strikes and Yemeni counterterrorism operations.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Ahmed Asiri, said the air campaign is against the Shiite rebels’ power grab — not al-Qaida. “The goals of the (operation) are clear, which is to support the legitimacy of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, support efforts to restore peace and stability and prevent the Houthi militia from harming Yemenis and neighboring countries,” Asiri told journalists in Riyadh.

Fighting al-Qaida requires different strategies than that of the current operation, Asiri said, suggesting that such a fight could come later. “Once there is a secure and stable Yemen that is able to impose order, there will be no room for al-Qaida,” he told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath TV station.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni affiliate is known, is widely seen as the global network’s most dangerous franchise and has been linked to several failed attacks on the U.S. The group claimed responsibility for the attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris earlier this year.

The al-Qaida affiliate has strengthened its hold on Mukalla, negotiating the formation of a 51-member local council to act as nominal administrators of the provincial capital, a local politician, Ali al-Kathiri told The Associated Press.

He said local tribal leaders approved the council only to avoid bloodshed and that non-religious parties like his were kept out of the council. “This is dangerous. We know what their orientation is,” al-Kathiri said, adding that the council negotiated with local commanders of the military base in Mukalla to ensure a peaceful handover of their bases.

Baqazouz, the local activist, said control of the bases means the militants now have free rein over the long Hadrawmawt coast, which stretches along the Arabian Sea in the east. In Mukalla, al-Qaida fighters have turned a cultural center into an Islamic religious court and set up squads to keep law and order, according to Baqazouz and al-Kathiri. The squads have arrested several local politicians loyal to Saleh, they said.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s exiled vice president, Khaled Bahah, called on the Houthis and pro-Saleh military units to end their offensive on the southern port city of Aden, saying that ground fighting must halt ahead of any peace initiative.

Speaking in Riyadh, Bahah said the rebels and Saleh loyalists should adhere to the U.N. Security Council resolution passed earlier this week that calls on Yemen’s rivals to end the violence and return to U.N.-led peace talks. He called on military units loyal to Saleh to return to the fold of the legitimate government.

The U.N. resolution makes no mention of an end to the airstrikes. “We consider Aden to be the key to peace, the key to the solution,” Bahah said of the port city, Yemen’s second-largest, where Hadi had set up a temporary capital before fleeing to Saudi Arabia.

Bahah said Hadi will return to Aden when the security and political situation improves. For now, he said a small government will operate out of Riyadh, focusing on organizing and coordinating humanitarian efforts.

The Houthis swept down from their northern strongholds and seized the capital, Sanaa, in September. Iran supports the Shiite rebels, but both Tehran and the rebels deny it has armed them. Meanwhile, Saleh troops and Houthi fighters made new gains in Taiz, north of Aden, encircling the command center of a major brigade loyal to Hadi amid heavy clashes.

Asiri, the coalition spokesman, said the air campaign has left the Houthi rebels in disarray and severed their contacts and alliance with the Saleh military units. He said fighting units on the ground are isolated from their leaders and targeting their weapons depots has limited their capabilities.

Ground fighting has been fiercest in Aden, where rebels and pro-Saleh military units are trying to take control of the city. Humanitarian groups have struggled to meet the needs of a population that was already struggling with food security, water scarcity and fuel shortages.

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that at least 364 civilians are reported to have been killed since the start of the airstrikes on March 26, including at least 84 children and 25 women. This is in addition to hundreds of fighters killed.

El Deeb reported from Cairo. Aya Batrawy contributed to this report from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

April 02, 2015

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Al-Qaida militants traveling in convoys flying black banners captured a major port city in southern Yemen on Thursday, seizing government buildings and freeing inmates from a prison, including a top Saudi-born leader, security officials said.

The fall of Mukalla — the capital of Yemen’s largest province, Hadramawt — highlighted how al-Qaida is expanding its foothold in Yemen, taking advantage of the turmoil as a Saudi-led coalition backing the country’s beleaguered president tries to fend off a takeover by Shiite rebels.

Mukalla’s fall came as the rebels, known as Houthis, made dramatic advances in one of the main strongholds of the president’s loyalists, the southern city of Aden. The rebels broke into the center of Aden and briefly captured a presidential palace in the city.

The rebels withdrew from the palace after raising the Yemeni flag, but the move showed their continued strength despite more than a week of heavy airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. If the Houthis succeed in capturing Aden, it would be a significant blow to the coalition, which has been planning to land ground troops in the city to allow the return of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled the country last week.

At least 519 people have been killed, many of them civilians and 90 of them children, in the past two weeks of violence in Yemen, as well as 1,700 wounded, the U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said. She said tens of thousands have also fled their homes.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the terror network’s branch in Yemen is named, has been benefiting from the turmoil ever since the Houthis first surged from their northern strongholds last year to take over the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north. The rebels are backed in the campaign by military and police forces loyal to Hadi’s predecessor, ousted autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Around the country, some Sunni tribal fighters have been making alliances with al-Qaida to fight the rebels, who adhere to the Zaydi branch of Shia Islam. But the capture of Mukalla was a startling advance. The city lies 300 miles northeast of Aden along the Arabian Sea coast in large but sparsely populated Hadramawt.

The militants fanned out along major roads leading into Mukalla on Thursday and took over the city’s presidential palace, government agencies and the local Central Bank branch. They tried to break open the bank’s vault with hand grenades but failed, according to witnesses. The witnesses spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Militants on pickup trucks set up checkpoints across the city, sealing off entrances and exits, while residents were seen entering the offices and looting electronic devices and files, the witnesses said.

The al-Qaida fighters also freed about 300 inmates from the city’s main prison, including scores of militants, according to security officials. Among those freed was Saudi-born Khaled Batrafi, a senior al-Qaida operative believed to have masterminded past attacks, the officials said.

Also freed were 90 death row inmates convicted for a host of criminal offences, according to activists in the city. After the noon prayers, a top al-Qaida leader stood up in the middle of the worshippers in the city’s al-Sharag mosque, telling them that he and fellow militants were there only to defend the city from the Houthis.

“People are terrified,” said Ali al-Katheri, an activist in Mukalla. “They never expected that the city falls so easy in hands of al-Qaida.” Police commandos in the city were loyal to Saleh, the former president, and did not resist the al-Qaida advance. Army units loyal to Hadi are stationed in bases on the city’s outskirts but also did not move against the militants, apparently too weak to fight back. At one point, a military helicopter opened fire on the militants but withdrew after hitting residential homes, al-Katheri said.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is seen by Washington as the terror network’s most dangerous branch ever since its attempt in 2009 to bomb a commercial carrier over the United States. It claimed responsibility for January’s deadly attack in Paris on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

The rebels’ power grab, combined with nationwide chaos, has forced the United States to pull out military advisers who were backing the Yemeni military against al-Qaida, undermining U.S. counter-terrorism operations and drone strikes.

The air campaign by Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies has been pounding Houthi and pro-Saleh forces in Sanaa and multiple provinces around the country. In recent days, the warplanes have been hitting hard in Aden, trying to fend off the rebels and Saleh’s troops amid fierce fighting with Hadi’s loyalists on the ground.

Airstrikes in Aden on Thursday hit a base of pro-Saleh police commandos and a hotel being used by Houthi fighters, killing at least 20 people, Yemeni security officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to the press.

Hadi’s loyalists have held the city’s center, located on a peninsula jutting into the Arabian Sea, while their opponents held the airport at the base of the peninsula and some neighborhoods to the north.

But on Thursday, Houthi fighters were able to break into the city center, driving through the commercial district, seizing several neighborhoods and capturing the presidential palace at the peninsula’s tip. They held the palace as a “show of strength” before withdrawing for fear of airstrikes, the security officials said.

Fighting still raged in the evening as Hadi’s forces and loyalists held onto scattered parts of the city, and airstrikes battered the airport. Warplanes also struck an island in the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, the southern entrance to the Red Sea, after Houthis took over the island earlier Thursday, officials said.

Saudi and Egyptian warships deployed to Bab al-Mandab which gives the only access to Egypt’s Suez Canal from the Arabian Sea and is a vital passage for shipping between Europe and Asia. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, said one of its guards along the border with Yemen was killed Wednesday night. It was the first known Saudi casualty since the airstrikes started.

A border post in the Asir region came under heavy fire from a mountainous area inside Yemen, followed by cross-border skirmishes, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. Along with the Saudi guard who was killed, 10 other border guards were wounded, SPA said.

September 04, 2014

NEW DELHI (AP) — Al-Qaida has expanded into India, the leader of the terror group said in a video released Thursday, vowing that its militants would bring Islamic law to the entire subcontinent and “wage jihad against its enemies.”

At least three Indian states with large Muslim populations have been put on alert in the wake of the video’s release, local TV stations reported, though there was no indication of an increased security presence.

The new group “is the fruit of a blessed effort of more than two years to gather the mujahedeen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity,” al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri said in the video, which was seen online by the SITE monitoring group.

While his comments raised concerns in India, al-Zawahri’s message seemed largely directed at his own rivals in the international jihad movement, and with raising al-Qaida’s profile in the wake of repeated successes by the Islamic State militant group.

Al-Qaida has been increasingly overshadowed by the Islamic State, whose fighters have captured wide swaths of Syria and Iraq and recently beheaded two American journalists. Al-Qaida “is struggling for its legitimacy in the eyes of the radicalized Muslim world,” said Ajai Sahni, a top Indian security analyst with the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management.

“Osama bin Laden has been killed and (al-Qaida’s) entire top leadership, apart from Zawahri and a few others, one by one have been decimated by the American drone attacks,” he said. While al-Zawahri’s statement referred to the “Indian subcontinent” — a term that most commonly refers to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal — his comments were widely seen as directed at India, a largely Hindu nation with a large Muslim minority.

Al-Zawahri said the group, Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian subcontinent, would fight for an Islamic state and laws across the region, “which was part of the Muslims’ territories before it was occupied by the infidel enemy.”

The leader of the new group, Essam Omar, said in an audio recording released with the video, that Jews and Hindus — who he referred to as “apostates of India” — “will watch your destruction by your own eyes.”

Fighters will “storm your barricades with cars packed with gunpowder,” Omar said, decrying what he called the region’s “injustice toward Muslims.” Until recently, India had largely seen itself as beyond the recruiting territory of international jihadists like al-Qaida. Over the past few months, however, the Islamic State has grown in prominence in India, and is increasingly believed to be gaining followers here. Last month, an Indian engineering student who had traveled to Iraq with friends, and who was thought to have joined the Islamic State, was reported killed.

Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh met Thursday morning with top security and intelligence officials to discuss the threat. A spokesman for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said the statement was “a matter of serious concern. But there is nothing to worry about. We have a strong government at the federal level.”

India, though, has a notoriously underfunded and ill-trained security infrastructure. In 2008, a small group of Pakistani militants attacked Mumbai, India’s financial hub, effectively shutting down the city for days and killing 166 people.

New Delhi also has been trying for years to put down an insurgency in Kashmir, India’s only majority-Muslim state, where militants are fighting to bring independence to the Himalayan region or join it to neighboring Pakistan. The fighting has left thousands of people dead.

AP Writers Ashok Sharma and Nirmala George contributed to this report.

6 December 2013

On Friday, Al Qaeda took responsibility for a successful attack on the Yemeni puppet defense ministry that killed 52 apostates on Thursday, saying the complex hosted US personnel behind drone strikes against Muslims, reports AFP.

Accounting to democratic media, in a statement published by an unnamed media outlet of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on an unnamed Twitter account, the Mujahideen said:

“The city center compound was stormed… after the Mujahedeen proved that it accommodates drone control rooms and American experts”.

“As part of a policy to target drone control rooms, the Mujahideen have dealt a heavy blow to one”.

“Such security headquarters in partnership with the Americans in their war on these Muslim people are a justified target wherever they may be.”

According to official apostates’ figure, up to 25 Mujahideen took part in the assault, and 11 of them embraced Martyrdom (God willing). The other 14 Mujahideen returned safely to their bases.

Department of Monitoring

Kavkaz Center

Source: Kavkaz Center.

Link: http://kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2013/12/06/18624.shtml.

September 20, 2013

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Taking advantage of heavy fog, al-Qaida militants disguised in military uniforms carried out three coordinated car bomb attacks on a security barracks and military posts in a southern Yemeni province Friday, killing at least 38 troops and wounding dozens others, military and security officials said.

The attacks were the largest since a U.S.-backed military offensive last year routed militants from significant swaths of territory they had seized during Yemen’s 2011 political turmoil. The assaults also underscored the fragility of the Yemeni military and the failure of the current leadership to meet longtime demands to restructure the military.

Yemen’s Supreme Security Committee, headed by the country’s president, issued a statement listing 10 al-Qaida militants as top perpetrators of the attacks, and vowing to bring “criminal, coward and terrorist elements to justice.”

Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished country, has been struggling for years with al-Qaida’s local branch, also known as the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The group has been waging a campaign of violence against Yemen’s military, including assassinations of security officers and government officials in suicide attacks or drive-by shootings.

The branch came to be considered by Washington as one of the world’s most dangerous terror groups after a series of attempted attacks on American soil. After being uprooted from southern town its took over in 2011, the group has suffered some heavy blows, with a U.S. campaign of drone strikes killing a string of its prominent figures. Near-daily U.S. drone attacks in the first week of August killed 34 suspected al-Qaida militants.

Friday’s attack suggested the group was trying to surge back. The simultaneous, 6 a.m. attacks in the southern province of Shabwa, a one-time al-Qaida stronghold, caught the security forces unprepared, said Maj. Nasser Mohammed, who is with a unit in the area. The attacks took place in a remote region, about 500 kilometers (312 miles) southeast of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, he said.

Militants were dressed up in military uniforms and drove cars with army license plates, another military official said. They struck just at the transition between guard shifts, indicated they had information on the force’s work schedules, the official said.

The militants targeted three military and Central Security encampments and posts, two in the town of al-Mayfaa, and the third in the al-Ain area several miles away. The area is close to the Balhaf liquefied gas export terminal on the Arabian Sea coast, a second military official said. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

The military officials said 38 people were killed in the attacks. One suicide car bomber in al-Mayfaa rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into the Interior Ministry’s al-Kamp Central Security camp, after militants overpowered the guards. Most of the causalities were in this camp, which serves as a base for forces in charge of guarding oil wells and the gas terminal. Clashes at the other al-Mayfaa site left at least five troops wounded, Nasser added.

Meanwhile, a car bomb was detonated prematurely outside the gates of the third site, the post in al-Ain. The blast was followed by heavy clashes during which militants seized six soldiers and a number of military vehicles. Eight militants were killed in the fighting at al-Ain, Nasser said.

Friday’s attacks came just days after Yemeni authorities warned of more al-Qaida attacks and suicide bombings. Over the past two weeks, security was beefed up in the capital after tips that militants planned attacks on vital installations and foreigners.

Al-Qaida-linked militants took advantage of the political unrest in Yemen following the 2011 uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, to reinforce their presence in the country’s mostly lawless south and seize several cities and towns there.

In a major offensive backed by the U.S. military, Yemen’s army was able to regain control of large parts of the south last year. Militants scattered into different mountainous areas. Saleh was ousted in 2012. His successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, removed Saleh’s relatives in the Republican Guard forces and other key units in the military. But he has so far failed to carry out broader reforms purging Saleh loyalists from the military and other government posts, a move experts say is needed to improve the armed forces sand security.

Sanaa-based researcher in Islamic movements, Ziad al-Salami, said Friday’s attacks were a “strong message” from al-Qaida. “Al-Qaida is trying to show that it still carries weight on the ground,” he said. “Yemen needs to speed up reforms of the military and break the current political stalemate.”

Al-Salami said al-Qaida militants are now present in four major Yemeni provinces — Shabwa, Abyan, Hadramawt and Jouf, bordering Saudi Arabia. “This belt is a strategic one because it’s the region where oil is concentrated, and where Yemen has a long coastal line,” al-Salami said. “All of Yemen’s wealth is there. The military must be in control.”

Yemen’s al-Qaida franchise has also been blamed for directing a string of unsuccessful bomb plots against Americans. Those included a foiled plan to down a U.S.-bound airliner using a new, sophisticated explosive to be hidden in the bomber’s underwear, and a plot to send mail bombs on planes to the U.S. hidden in the toner cartridges of computer printers.

February 03, 2014

CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaida broke off ties with one of its purported branches in Syria and distanced itself from the rebel infighting in that country’s civil war, according to a statement Monday.

The announcement appeared to be an attempt by al-Qaida to put its house in order and reassert influence among rival Islamic groups that have turned against one another in Syria. Signed by the al-Qaida “general command,” the statement said the leadership has cut off the affiliate known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, after it disobeyed orders from the terror network’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Al-Zawahri last May ordered the Islamic State to operate independently from a rival al-Qaida branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, led by Abu Mohammed al-Golani. Al-Baghdadi rejected al-Zawahri’s orders and unsuccessfully sought to merge the two branches.

In Monday’s statement, al-Qaida said it “did not approve of the creation of nor did it control” the Islamic State, and therefore has “no organizational ties with it.” “We distance ourselves from the sedition taking place among the mujahedeen factions (in Syria) and of the forbidden blood shed by any faction,” the statement said of the infighting among Islamic extremists.

The jihadis, or holy warriors, it said, should realize the “enormity of the catastrophe” and the implications “this sedition” can have on the holy war in Syria. The authenticity of the statement could not independently be verified but it was posted on websites commonly used by al-Qaida.

The rebel-on-rebel fighting has added another bloody dimension to the Syrian crisis, which erupted in March 2011 as an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule but later evolved into an armed insurgency and civil war.

The war provided fertile ground for militant Islamic groups and over time, the Islamic State and the Nusra Front emerged as the two main al-Qaida-linked groups until their falling out last spring. The Islamic State, meanwhile, largely eclipsed the Nusra Front in many parts of northern Syria.

Charles Lister of the Brookings Doha Center said the al-Qaida statement reflected its “attempt to definitively re-assert some level of authority over the jihad in Syria.” It also showed al-Qaida leadership’s failure to take a genuinely commanding line in the rivalry between the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, and made it inevitable that al-Zawahri had to issue a decisive ruling with permanent consequences, said Lister.

Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.