Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2017, 14:54 GMT

Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 - Yemen

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 May 2013
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 - Yemen, 30 May 2013, available at: [accessed 17 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Overview: The Government of Yemen successfully implemented a peaceful change of government and a military campaign against al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) strongholds in its southern governorates in 2012, while facing multiple challenges including military and police units of varying loyalties, tribal adversaries, anti-government Houthi groups, a southern secessionist movement, and lawlessness in many areas. After their setback in Abyan, AQAP terrorists took advantage of Yemen's climate of instability, employing asymmetric tactics in a campaign of bombings and targeted assassinations against government targets, pro-government tribal militias known as Popular Committees (PCs), as well as civilian and international targets.

The Yemeni government, under President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, remained a strong U.S. counterterrorism partner. Hadi demonstrated Yemen's commitment as a counterterrorism partner soon after taking office by ordering the military to dislodge AQAP militants from areas they occupied in Abyan and Aden governorates including the towns of Zinjibar, Jaar, and Shuqra. By June, these AQAP forces had been dislodged or withdrawn. AQAP elements continued to remain active in Abyan and Aden governorates, however, as well as in Sanaa and other governorates.

The U.S. conducted counterterrorism operations in Yemen and trained Yemeni forces. Two U.S.-trained counterterrorism units, the Yemen Special Operations Forces (YSOF) and the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), remained in the vicinity of Sanaa and did not participate in the early summer campaign against AQAP in the southern governorates. Fractures within the chain of command and reluctance on the part of these units' pro-Saleh leadership to commit forces contributed to this performance. YSOF was under the command of the son of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Ahmed Ali Saleh, and the CTU fell under the nephew, Yahya Saleh, Chief of Staff of the Central Security Forces. The CTU deployed to the southern governorates and participated in the counterterrorism fight later in 2012. In December 2012, President Hadi issued a decree that unified some of Yemen's various counterterrorism units and special operations forces under one command as part of a broader military reorganization.

In the spring of 2012, a Yemeni military offensive, with the help of armed residents, regained government control over territory in the south, which AQAP has seized and occupied in 2011. AQAP increasingly turned to asymmetric tactics to target Yemeni government officials, pro-government PCs and their leaders, soldiers, civilians, and U.S. embassy personnel.

Yemeni government officials accused some pro-secessionist members of the Southern Movement (Hirak), of carrying out violent acts in the south. Senior security and military officials accused Hirak in the south and Houthi groups in the north of receiving weapons and funding from Iran in an effort to destabilize Yemen. They also accused Iranian elements of raising political and sectarian tensions through disinformation that promoted and encouraged violent extremism.

2012 Terrorist Incidents: AQAP and AQAP-affiliated groups carried out attacks throughout Yemen using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), ambushes, car bombs, VBIEDs, suicide bombers, and targeted assassinations by gunmen riding motorcycles. The list below is not comprehensive and does not include all of the engagements that occurred almost daily between AQAP and other militants and government forces or pro-government PCs.

  • On January 11, in Aden, suspected AQAP gunmen opened fire on a vehicle carrying Yemeni intelligence officers, killing at least one and wounding five.

  • On February 25, a suicide car bombing killed 26 Republican Guard troops outside of the presidential palace in Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt governorate. It occurred while President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi was taking the oath as president in Sanaa. AQAP later claimed responsibility for the attack.

  • On March 4, AQAP militants stormed an army base in Kod, south of Abyan's capital, Zinjibar, and then fighting spread to other military posts in the area. The attack reportedly began with coordinated VBIEDs at military posts at Zinjibar's southern and western entrances, which killed at least seven Yemeni soldiers and wounded 12 others. Overall, over 185 Yemeni soldiers were killed in the assault, and over 70 were taken captive by AQAP.

  • On March 14, AQAP militants kidnapped a Swiss woman in the port city of al Hodeidah. Two weeks later, they reportedly demanded certain conditions for her release, calling for the release of Usama bin Laden's widows, who were being held in Pakistan, the release of several women being held in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the release of 100 AQ-affiliated militants from Yemeni jails, and 50 million Euros (approximately US $66 million). Mediation efforts failed, according to a tribal negotiator, because of the prohibitive demands. (The Swiss woman was released in February 2013.)

  • On March 18, AQAP gunmen killed American citizen Joel Shrum on his way to work in Taiz. Shrum worked as an administrator and English teacher at a vocational institute. On March 22, AQAP claimed responsibility in a communiqué posted on violent extremist forums.

  • On March 28, Abdullah al-Khaldi, the deputy counsel at the Saudi consulate in Aden, was kidnapped on his way to work.

  • On April 21, armed tribesmen kidnapped a French employee of the International Committee Red Cross 20 miles outside of Hodeidah. Tribal sources indicated later that he was subsequently handed over to AQAP and was being held in Abyan governorate. He was released on July 14.

  • On May 21, a suicide bomber disguised as a soldier struck at a rehearsal for a military parade in Sabeen Square in Sanaa, leaving over 90 soldiers dead. AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack.

  • On May 25, a suspected AQAP bomber attacked and killed at least 12 Shia in a bombing of a Houthi mosque in al-Jawf governorate in northern Yemen.

  • On June 18, Southern Military Region Commander Major General Salem Qatan was assassinated by a suicide bomber as he was leaving his residence in Aden. AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack.

  • On July 11, a suicide bomber targeted cadets at the Sanaa Police Academy as they were leaving class. At least nine were killed in the blast.

  • On July 16, suspected AQAP gunmen ambushed the Deputy Director of Taiz Central Prison, killing him and three other persons.

  • On August 5, a suicide bomber struck at a funeral in Yemen's southern city of Jaar, killing at least 45 people and wounding dozens more. The attack targeted a local Popular Committee that had sided with the government against AQAP militants.

  • On August 18, militants with suspected ties to AQAP attacked a Political Security Organization compound in Aden. The militants first detonated a VBIED and then raided the building. At least 14 members of the security forces were killed and seven others were injured in the attack.

  • On August 19, a gunman opened fire on worshippers in a mosque in al-Dhale, killing at least seven people and injuring 11 others. Security sources indicated that the gunman may not have had ties to AQAP.

  • On August 19, a suicide bomber with suspected ties to AQAP attacked a group of tribesmen in Mudia in Abyan governorate. The attack killed Nasser Ali Daiheh, leader of the local Popular Committee, along with two of his bodyguards.

  • On September 11, Yemen's defense minister Major General Muhammad Nasir Ahmad escaped assassination in a VBIED attack on his motorcade in Sanaa. The attack, which was carried out by suspected AQAP militants, killed 12 people including seven security guards and five civilians.

  • On September 13, hundreds of violent protesters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound and looted and vandalized the property. The attack caused an estimated $20 million in damages to U.S. buildings, vehicles, and facilities.

  • On October 30, saboteurs bombed the Yemen gas pipeline 300 kilometers north of Balhaf terminal.

  • On November 2, a senior officer in the Central Security Forces was shot and killed by masked gunmen in a drive-by shooting near his house in Sayun in Hadramawt governorate.

  • On November 24, three worshippers were killed in Sanaa by unknown assailants in an attack on a Houthi gathering commemorating the Shia holy day of Ashura.

  • On November 28, a Saudi diplomat and his bodyguard were shot and killed in an ambush in the Hadda district of Sanaa. The attackers, who remained unidentified, reportedly wore Central Security Force uniforms.

  • On December 8, eight Yemeni soldiers including one senior officer, were killed in Marib governorate in an ambush by suspected AQAP gunmen.

  • On December 10, 17 Yemeni soldiers and officers were killed in an ambush by suspected AQAP militants. The ambush took place in the Wadi Obeida area of Marib province as the soldiers were patrolling the Marib Oil Pipeline.

  • On December 11, suspected AQAP militants on a motorcycle shot and killed Deputy Director of the Political Security Organization in Hadramawt governorate, Ahmed Barmadah, as he was leaving his house in Mukalla.

  • On December 28, AQAP's media arm al-Mahalem Media Organization posted a YouTube video announcing rewards of 3,000 grams of gold for killing the U.S. ambassador to Yemen and five million Yemeni riyals (approximately US $23,000) for killing an American soldier in Yemen. The communiqué was posted on violent extremist websites and reported in public media.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Parliament has yet to vote on a package of counterterrorism laws first introduced in 2008, despite efforts of the Ministry of Legal Affairs to advocate for the legislation's passage. As a result, the Yemeni government continued to lack a clear legal framework for prosecuting terrorism-related crimes. The government often resorted to charging terrorism suspects with "membership in an armed gang."

There were a number of arrests of terrorist suspects in 2012. However the continued weakness of the Yemeni justice system left many traditional law enforcement counterterrorism responsibilities to the Yemeni military.

A series of decrees by President Hadi in late December marked an important step in implementing some key military and security reforms by establishing a more unified command structure suited to Yemen's security challenges.

Yemen continued to participate in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Yemen is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and enacted its first comprehensive anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) law in 2010.

In 2012, the FIU participated in training to enhance its operational capacity. Yemen has a cross-border cash declaration or disclosure requirement for cash amounts over $15,000. Compliance is lax and customs inspectors do not routinely file currency declaration forms if funds are discovered. There are approximately 532 registered money exchange businesses in Yemen. Money transfer businesses are required to register with the Central Bank of Yemen and can open offices at multiple locations. Yemen has a large underground economy. The Yemeni government lacks specific legislation with respect to forfeiture of the assets of those suspected of terrorism.

Since February 2010, Yemen has been publicly identified by the FATF as a jurisdiction with strategic AML/CTF deficiencies, for which it has developed an action plan with the FATF to address these weaknesses. The Yemeni government has since committed to an action plan with the FATF to address these weaknesses. Yemen's Financial Investigations Unit at the Central Bank of Yemen drafted updated legislation to address the recommendations of the MENAFATF.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, please refer to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: In February, Yemen participated in the Global Counterterrorism Forum's Horn of Africa region capacity building working group in Dar es Salaam. The Government of Yemen cooperated with U.S., European, Jordanian, and regional partners on counterterrorism issues.

Jordanian and U.S. teams advised the Ministry of Defense as it made plans to restructure Yemen's military and defense forces, and European teams advised the Ministry of Interior on restructuring Yemen's police and interior security forces.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Official media published messages from President Hadi and other senior officials highlighting the importance of countering terrorism by addressing the conditions that terrorists exploit. State broadcasters also featured limited messaging designed to raise awareness among the Yemeni people about the dangers of terrorism and violent extremism. They frequently highlighted the threat of terrorism and violent acts on Yemen's economy and development. Many political leaders and groups (including the former opposition Joint Meeting Party alliance) publicly condemned terrorism and violent attacks, while stressing that a unified army and security service would help to eradicate terrorism. Many Yemeni officials and media professionals have expressed support for expanding messaging efforts aimed at countering violent extremism, but point to a lack of resources and expertise that impede their efforts.

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