Terrorism in Yemen

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In its war on terrorism in Yemen, the US government describes Yemen as "an important partner in the global war on terrorism".[1] There have been attacks on civilian targets and tourists, and there was a cargo-plane bomb plot in 2010. Counter-terrorism operations have been conducted by the Yemeni police and the Yemeni and US military.

Attacks on civilian targets[edit]

Limburg attack[edit]

Main article: Limburg attack

On October 2002, near the port of Al Mukalla, suicide bombers rammed an explosive-laden boat into the Limburg, a French oil tanker, killing a Bulgarian crew member and spilling 90,000 barrels (14,000 m3) of oil into the Gulf of Aden. Saudi born Abdulraheem al-Nashiri, prime suspect of the USS Cole bombing, paid $40,000 to fund the Limburg attack. With that money, the former Al Qaida leader Abu Ali al-Harithi bought the explosives and transported them from his house in Shabwa to Mukalla in Hadramut.[2]

Civil Aviation and Meteorological Authority and helicopter attacks[edit]

On 3 November 2002 there was an attack on a helicopter carrying Hunt Oil Co. employees shortly after taking off from Sana'a. A missile and a machine gun were fired at the helicopter injuring two American citizens.[3] One person was jailed for the helicopter attack as well as for bombing the Civil Aviation and Meteorological Authority building in Sana'a.[4][5]

Jibla hospital[edit]

On December 30, 2002, a suspected Islamic fundamentalist killed three US workers and wounded one in a hospital in Jibla with a semi-automatic rifle. Two men were eventually convicted and executed for the attack - the gunman Abid Abdulrazzaq Al-Kamil, and the 'mastermind' Ali Ahmed Mohamed al-Jarallah, who had also been convicted of the 2002 murder of Yemeni politician Jarallah Omar.[6][7][8]

Al-Salem letter threats[edit]

Jews in Yemen reportedly fled their homes due to threats from Muslim extremists. Al-Qaeda members sent letters to 45 Jews living in al-Salem (near Sana'a) on January 19, 2007, accusing them of involvement in an "international Zionist conspiracy". The Jewish community sent a complaint to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and temporarily moved to a hotel near Sana'a. The Yemeni government promised to protect their homes and reassured them that they could return.[9][10]

US Embassy[edit]

On September 17, 2008, Al-Qaeda militants attacked the US Embassy in Sana'a. 20 people were killed, including six militants, six policemen and seven civilians. One American was also among those killed.

Attacks on tourists[edit]

A suicide bomber killed eight Spanish tourists and their two Yemeni drivers in Ma'rib on July 2, 2007. On January 18, 2008 Al-Qaeda militants opened fire on a convoy of tourists in Hadhramaut, killing two Belgian tourists, two Yemenis, the tourists' driver and their guide. In March 2009, four South Korean tourists and their local Yemeni guide were killed. Two attackers also died.

2010 cargo plane bomb plot[edit]

On October 29, 2010, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that a device in a package sent from Yemen and found on a US-bound cargo plane was designed to explode on the aircraft. Cameron said that investigators were uncertain of when the device, intercepted at East Midlands Airport, was supposed to explode. A second device containing explosives was found on a cargo plane in Dubai.

In Yemen, police arrested but later released a woman suspected of posting the packages. The devices, which triggered security alerts in the US, the UK and Middle East, were apparently inserted into printer cartridges and placed in packages addressed to synagogues in the Chicago area. US President Barack Obama discussed the apparent terrorist plot with Cameron by phone, expressing his "appreciation for the professionalism of American and British services involved" in disrupting it.[citation needed]

Cameron said that authorities had immediately banned packages coming to (or through) the UK from Yemen and would be "looking extremely carefully at any further steps we have to take".[citation needed] UK Home Secretary Theresa May said that the government did not believe that the plotters would have known the location of the device when it was planned to explode. Although details of the device found in Britain were not released, photographs emerged in the US media of an ink-toner cartridge covered in white powder and connected to a circuit board. The British government's statements suggested that authorities in the UK and the US remained uncertain about the targets and purpose of the apparent plot. According to Dubai police, the explosives they found were also inside a printer-ink cartridge in a cardboard box with English-language books and souvenirs. The cartridge contained PETN and plastic explosives mixed with lead azide (an explosive commonly used in detonators). Unnamed US officials quoted by the Associated Press said that al-Qaeda's explosives expert in Yemen, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, was the likely suspect in the bomb-making. They said that Asiri helped to make the bomb used in the failed Detroit Christmas Day bomb attack and another PETN device used in a failed suicide attack against a top Saudi counter-terrorism official. The White House said that Saudi Arabia provided information which helped identify the threat, and the UK's Daily Telegraph reported that an MI6 officer responsible for Yemen had been tipped off.[full citation needed]

Military and police counter-terrorism operations[edit]

After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, President Ali Abdullah Saleh attempted to eliminate the Islamist militant presence. By November 2002, Yemeni government troops had detained 104 suspected al-Qaeda members.[11]

In December 2001 a search by government forces for two Yemenis believed to be senior al-Qaeda members hiding near Ma'rib led to a gun battle with tribesmen which ended in the deaths of 34 people, including 18 soldiers. To defuse the situation, ten Ma'rib sheiks were detained as hostages of the state in the presidential palace for 35 days, until 43 lesser tribesmen took their place.[12]

Early in 2002 the Bush administration approved sending about 100 Special Operations Forces to Yemen.[13] In November 2002, six Yemeni suspected al-Qaeda members were blown up in their car in the province of Marib by a Hellfire missile attack from an unmanned CIA RQ-1 Predator aircraft. Among the dead was Abu Ali al-Harithi.[14] In 2004, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC-TV) international-affairs program Foreign Correspondent investigated the targeted killing and the involvement of the US ambassador as part of a report entitled "The Yemen Option". The report examined evolving tactics and countermeasures in dealing with al-Qaeda-inspired attacks.[15]

At the request of the United States, Spanish troops boarded and detained a ship transporting Scud missiles from North Korea to Yemen in December 2002. After two days, when the United States determined that it had no right under international law to continue detaining the shipment, it was allowed to continue on its way to Yemen.[16][17]

On July 30, 2009, three soldiers were killed in a clash with al-Qaeda militants in Marib province.[18] On December 17 the village of Al Ma`jalah was hit by a cruise missile which killed 41 people, including 14 women and 21 children; 14 were alleged al-Qaeda members. While the Yemeni government initially took responsibility, photographs of American components and a Wikileaks cable suggested that it was carried out by the United States.[19] ABC News reported that US cruise missiles were part of the camp bombardment targeting Abu Hureira Qasm al-Rimi.[20] According to a local official and a tribal source, 49 civilians (including 23 women and 17 children) were among those killed in the strike. That day, a clash between security forces and al-Qaeda members in Abhar left four militants dead.[21]

An air raid targeted an al-Qaeda meeting in Wadi Rafadh, Shabwa province on December 24, 2009. Thirty-four al-Qaeda militants were killed in the attack. According to security forces, Saudis and Iranians were among those killed. The number of al-Qaeda members arrested the previous week rose to 29.[21]

US air attacks[edit]

The US first said that it used targeted killing in November 2002, with the cooperation and approval of the Yemeni government.[22][23] A CIA-controlled Predator drone fired a Hellfire missile at an SUV containing Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, a Yemeni suspected senior al-Qaeda lieutenant believed to have masterminded the October 2000 USS Cole bombing which killed 17 Americans, in the Yemeni desert.[22][23][24] Al-Harethi was on a list of targets whose capture or death had been ordered by US President George W. Bush.[22] In addition to al-Harethi, five other occupants of the SUV (all suspected al-Qaeda terrorists) were killed; one, Kamal Derwish, was an American.[22][25][26]

In May 2010 an errant US drone attack targeting al Qaeda terrorists in Wadi Abida killed five people, including Maarib province deputy governor Jaber al-Shabwani (who was mediating between the government and the militants). The killing angered Shabwani's tribesmen and in subsequent weeks they fought government security forces, twice attacking a major oil pipeline in the province.[27]

On May 5, 2011 a missile fired from a U.S. drone killed Abdullah and Mosaad Mubarak, brothers who may have been militants. The missile struck their car, and both died instantly.[28][29] Although the strike was aimed at Anwar al-Awlaki, al-Awlaki apparently survived.[30]

On June 3, 2011 American manned jets (or drones) killed Abu Ali al-Harithi, a mid-level al-Qaeda operative, and several other militant suspects including Ammar Abadah Nasser al-Wa'eli in southern Yemen.[31] Four civilians were also reportedly killed in the strike, reportedly coordinated by American special forces and CIA operatives based in Sana.[32] According to the Associated Press, in 2011 the US government began building an air base near (or in) Yemen from which the CIA and the US military planned to fly drones over Yemen.[33][34] The Washington Post reported that the US previously used a base in Djibouti to fly drones over Yemen.[35] The Wall Street Journal reported that a US drone base in the Seychelles could be used to fly drones over Yemen.[36]

According to local residents and unnamed American and Yemeni government officials, on July 14, 2011 US manned aircraft (or drones) attacked and destroyed a police station in Mudiya, Abyan Province, which had been occupied by al-Qaeda militants. Yemeni media and government accounts conflicted on the number of fatalities, estimated at between 6 and 50. Nearby that day drone missiles reportedly hit a car belonging to Yemeni al Qaeda leader Fahd al-Quso, who survived.[37][38][39][40][41]

On August 1, 2011 US drones and reported Yemeni aircraft attacked three targets with bombs and missiles in southern Yemen, killing 15 suspected al-Qaeda militants and wounding 17 others. Targeted locations included al-Wahdah, al-Amodiah, and al-Khamilah in Abyan province. One of those killed was reportedly militant leader Naser al-Shadadi. According to the Yemen Post online newspaper, "At least 35 US drone attacks were reported in Yemen over the last two months".[42][43][44] On August 24, unidentified aircraft attacked suspected al-Qaeda militants near Zinjibar. The strikes reportedly killed 30 militants and wounded 40 others.[45]

According to Yemeni officials, as reported in the Long War Journal, US airstrikes in southeast Abyan province from August 30 to September 1 killed 30 AQAP militants reportedly engaged in combat with Yemeni military forces.[46] Two airstrikes by US-operated aircraft on September 21 reportedly killed four AQAP fighters in Abyan and seven AQAP fighters in Shaqra.[47] On September 30 US drone-launched missiles killed four people, including al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, in Al Jawf Governorate. The strike also killed Samir Kahn, the American-born editor of Inspire magazine. It was the first known time that the US deliberately targeted US citizens in a drone attack.[48]

A reported drone strike in Zinjibar on October 5 killed five AQAP militants.[49] Yemeni government officials said that an October 14 US airstrike killed seven AQAP militants, including Egyptian-born AQAP media chief Ibrahim al-Bana.[50] Eight militants were reportedly killed in an airstrike near Jaar on December 17; a December 22 drone strike near Zinjibar reportedly killed Abdulrahman al-Wuhayshi, a relative of Yemeni al-Qaeda leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi.[51]

A reported US airstrike on January 31, 2012 near the city of Lawder in Abyan province killed 11 AQAP militants. The dead reportedly included Abdul Monem al-Fahtani, a participant in the USS Cole bombing.[52] Drones engaged in three attacks in three days on March 9–11, 2012. The first strike targeted an AQAP hideout near Al Baydah, Baydah province, reportedly killing local AQAP leader Abdulwahhab al-Homaiqani and 16 of followers. The second strike, on Jaar in Abyan province, reportedly killed 20 AQAP fighters. The third strike, also on Jaar, reportedly killed three AQAP militants and targeted a storage location for weapons seized by AQAP after it overran a Yemeni military base in Al Koud the previous week.[53] A fourth drone strike, on March 14 in Al Bydah, reportedly killed four AQAP militants in a vehicle.[54]

On April 11, 14 militants were killed in a drone strike in the town of Lauder (northeast of Zinjibar in Abyan province).[55] An April 22 drone strike in the Al Samadah area, near the border of Marib and Al Jawf provinces, killed AQAP senior leader Mohammed Saeed al Umda (also known as Ghareeb al Taizi).[56] A suspected US drone strike killed Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso and another al-Qaida militant in southern Shabwa province on May 6.[57]

On December 12, 2013, 17 people[58][59] in a wedding convoy were killed in the Rada' District of the Governorate of Al-Bayda'.[60] The US drone mistakenly targeted the wedding convoy after intelligence reports identified the vehicles as carrying suspected AQAP members.[61] Although five of the killed were suspects, the remainder were civilians.[62]

On March 3, 2014, an airstrike believed carried out by an American drone killed three suspected AQAP members. Mujahid Gaber Saleh al Shabwani, one of Yemen's 25 most-wanted AQAP operatives, was thought to have been pne of those killed.[63] According to a statement released by the Yemeni Interior Ministry, on April 20–21 three US drone strikes killed at least two dozen suspected AQAP members and destroyed one of the group's training camps in southern Yemen. Five civilians were wounded and three killed in the attack.[64] A June 13 suspected US drone strike targeted a car in the Mafraq al-Saeed region of Shabwah province, killing the five alleged AQAP operatives inside.[65] An estimated 98 US drone attacks were conducted in Yemen from 2002 to 2015: 41 in 2012, 26 in 2013 and 14 in 2014.[66]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ (editor) Herbert-Burns, Rupert; (editor) Bateman, Sam; (editor) Lehr, Peter (September 2008). Lloyd's MIU handbook of maritime security. Boca Raton: CRC Press. p. 60. ISBN 9781420054804. Retrieved 27 September 2016. 
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