In the past several days, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has carried out and claimed credit for four separate attacks in Yemen’s eastern Hadramout province. These operations, which took place between Oct. 9 and Oct. 13, include a suicide bombing and the assassination of a high ranking military official and have resulted in the deaths of about 40 Yemeni soldiers.
AQAP’s increased terrorist activity in Yemen comes in the context of the ongoing Houthi rebellion rocking the country. AQAP has declared an open war against the Shi’ite Houthis and has stepped up its attacks against both the rebels and the Yemeni military, whom AQAP accuses of colluding with the Houthis.
AQAP claims credit for Oct. 9 Hadramout suicide bombing
On Oct. 11, a Twitter account affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a statement claiming credit for the Oct. 9 attack on a military checkpoint in eastern Hadramout province that took place simultaneously with a suicide bombing in Sana’a. The attack in Hadramout took place at a military checkpoint on the outskirts of Mukallah, the provincial capital.
At the time, a military source in the area claimed that an AQAP suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at the checkpoint near the town of Buroom at the western entrance to Mukallah, immediately killing 10 soldiers. Medical sources reported that following the attack, four additional Yemeni soldiers were found dead at the site of the explosion and six others died from their wounds, raising the casualty figure to 20 soldiers. AQAP fighters also reportedly set fire to several vehicles and a small building at the checkpoint. Other sources reported that the AQAP fighters managed to seize two military vehicles and a tank during the course of the assault.
The AQAP statement released on Oct. 11 claimed that the attack on the “Houthi-turned-army” claimed the lives of 37 Yemeni soldiers. The statement clarified that the assault began with a suicide bombing carried out by Muwwahed al Qayfi, who detonated a vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) at a military checkpoint in the Ghabr region of Hadramout’s coast. AQAP claimed that this initial explosion killed 20 Yemeni soldiers and wounded 17 others and noted that a group of soldiers fled the scene by boarding boats on the Arabian Sea.
Additional AQAP attacks in Hadramout on Oct. 11
AQAP also claimed credit for two additional attacks in Hadramout province that took place on Oct. 11, killing three Yemeni soldiers including a colonel in Yemen’s Political Security Organization (PSO).
According to Arabic media outlets, the first attack on Oct. 11 targeted a military convoy belonging to the 135th brigade traveling through Hadramout’s historic Shibam city. An AQAP statement released the same day claimed that AQAP fighters ambushed a Special Forces convoy in Shibam with an improvised explosive device (IED) at 11:30 am. The statement alleged that the Special Forces soldiers were in the process of garrisoning the al Houta – Shibam expressway in advance of the arrival of a military force coming from the city of Seyoun. A separate AQAP statement released on Oct. 13 claimed that this operation killed 6 Yemeni soldiers.
Initial reports of the second attack, which took place in the city of al Shihr in Hadramout province on the evening of Oct. 11, claimed that it was carried out by “militants believed to belong to al Qaeda.” Armed fighters riding a motorbike shot and killed a retired colonel in Yemen’s Political Security Organization (PSO) named Abdo Khamees Abd al Mawla near his house in the city before managing to flee the scene.
An AQAP statement released shortly after the attack claimed that mujahideen shot al Mawla in the al Majoura neighborhood in central al Shihr, resulting in his immediate death before he could be taken to a hospital. The statement also denied media reports claiming that al Mawla was a retired colonel and emphasized that he was employed by the Political Security Organization “till the date of his death.”
Both AQAP statements regarding the two Oct. 11 Hadramout attacks boasted that “for four months, Hadramout has witnessed increased operational activity by Ansar al Shariah against units of the Yemeni Houthi-turned-army which inflicted exorbitant human and material losses.” The statement following al Mawla’s assasination also claimed that many Yemeni soldiers are actively spreading rumors of their leaving the military in order to avoid AQAP assasinations which have increased in recent years.
AQAP attacks Yemeni military in Hadramout on Oct. 13
On Oct. 13, AQAP claimed credit for yet another attack targeting Yemeni soldiers at a military patrol in the al Ghurfa region of Hadramout province. The AQAP statement released that day claimed that the mujahideen planted an improvised explosive device (IED) on the road linking the cities of Seyoun and al Houta in the Hadramout valley. The explosive was allegedly detonated at 8:30 am and targeted a Yemeni military armored vehicle traveling along the road. The statement did not provide any details about the numbers of casualties or wounded, but stated that “a number of soldiers in the Yemeni military” were killed and that a number of others were wounded.