Overview: The Government of Yemen struggled to maintain momentum against a resilient al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in 2013, while facing multiple challenges from former regime elements, southern secessionists, Houthi rebels, and tribal adversaries. The military and security restructuring process, intended to unify the command structure of the armed forces, remained incomplete, with front-line units often poorly trained or poorly equipped to counter the threat posed by AQAP. The Yemeni military did not undertake major counterterrorism operations through most of 2013; instead, they primarily assumed a defensive posture, while relying on small-scale operations, including air strikes and raids, in response to AQAP attacks.

AQAP is exploiting delays in the military restructuring process – an element of Yemen's ongoing political transition – by targeting military and security installations across several governorates and ambushing checkpoints, in addition to assassinating and kidnapping military, security, and intelligence officials. Additionally, AQAP retaliated against pro-government tribal militias known as Popular Committees for their role in driving out AQAP from the southern governorates in 2012. AQAP attacks have also increased in complexity and brazenness, as exemplified by the December 5 attack on a hospital located within the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Sanaa. In that attack, portions of which were caught on internal security cameras, AQAP operatives calmly murdered hospital staff, convalescing patients, and visiting family members.

Despite these challenges, the Government of Yemen under President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi remained a strong U.S. counterterrorism partner in 2013. As part of the political transition agreement, President Hadi convened a National Dialogue Conference (NDC) on March 18, 2013, bringing together political parties, activists, women, and youth to develop recommendations for Yemen's future and lay the groundwork for a new constitution. President Hadi supported U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen and encouraged cooperation among the U.S. military and Yemen's Special Operations Command and the Ministry of Interior's Counterterrorism Unit. The U.S. military trained Yemeni counterterrorism units and advised efforts to restructure the Ministry of Defense. As part of these restructuring efforts, President Hadi dissolved the Republican Guard, effectively removing former president Saleh's son as commander, and appointed Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar as senior advisor, removing him as head of the First Armored Division.

Yemeni government officials accused members of the southern movement (Hirak) of carrying out violent acts against the government. Senior military and security officials raised concern over Iranian assistance to Hirak, as well as over Iran's role in supporting some armed Houthi groups in the north and fomenting sectarian and extremist violence.

2013 Terrorist Incidents: AQAP and AQAP-affiliated groups carried out hundreds of attacks throughout Yemen, including suicide bombings, car bombings, ambushes, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations by gunmen riding motorcycles. The following list is not exhaustive and details only a small fraction of the incidents recorded in 2013:

  • On January 10, unknown gunmen ambushed and killed Sheikh Ali Abdullah Abdul Salam in Mahfid, in the Abyan Governorate. Sheikh Abdul Salam served as an intermediary between the Yemeni government and AQAP.

  • On January 16, two unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles shot and killed the deputy security chief of the Dhamar Governorate, Brigadier General Abdullah al-Mushki, just south of Sanaa.

  • On January 28, a suicide bomber affiliated with AQAP drove a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) into a checkpoint on the outskirts of Radaa, in the al-Bayda Governorate, killing 11 soldiers and wounding 17.

  • On February 4, militants affiliated with the Yemen-based Ansar al-Sharia (designated as an alias for AQAP and separate from the Ansar al-Sharia groups in Benghazi, Darnah, and Tunisia), ambushed Yemeni troops in the Walad Rabi'a district of the al-Bayda Governorate, killing two soldiers and wounding three.

  • On April 27, militants reportedly affiliated with AQAP attacked a checkpoint in Radaa, in the al-Bayda Governorate, killing five soldiers.

  • On September 20, militants reportedly affiliated with AQAP detonated two car bombs at a military camp in al-Nashama, in the Shebwah Governorate, killing 21 soldiers. In a separate but related incident, armed gunmen attacked the police headquarters in Mayfaa, killing eight police. The attackers reportedly kidnapped several soldiers during the attack and escaped using stolen vehicles.

  • On September 30, AQAP militants overran the Second Military Regional Command (2MRC) headquarters in Mukalla, Hadramaut Governorate, killing 10 soldiers. A suicide bomber detonated a VBIED outside of the 2MRC building at the onset of the attack. Armed gunmen, disguised in military uniforms, exchanged fire with soldiers before storming the 2MRC headquarters and taking hostages.

  • On October 11, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a market in Yafaa, in the Lahj Governorate, wounding seven people.

  • On November 26, unidentified gunmen shot two Belarusians working as private contractors in Sanaa, killing one. In a separate incident, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Colonel Ahmed Ismail al-Jahdary, director of training at the police academy in Sanaa.

  • On December 5, militants affiliated with AQAP initiated a complex attack on the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Sanaa. Suicide bombers detonated two VBIEDs: the first to gain entry into the complex, and the second in front of the hospital. Attackers wearing military uniforms then entered the hospital and gunned down medical staff, patients, and visitors indiscriminately. The Yemeni government reported 57 people killed and hundreds wounded. Qasim al-Raymi, an AQAP military commander, later apologized for the attack on the hospital in a December 21 video statement, due to public outrage.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: On September 17, the Yemeni parliament introduced a revision to the draft counterterrorism legislation that has been pending action since 2008. The revised law, if passed, would facilitate the detention of suspects and include mandatory sentencing for a number of terrorism-related crimes.

Although Yemeni courts tried dozens of suspected terrorists in 2013, many received light sentences due to the current legal framework for handling these cases. A number of government organizations were involved in countering acts of terrorism, including the National Security Bureau, the Political Security Organization, the Special Security Forces, and the Yemeni military.

Law enforcement units demonstrated limited capacity to detect, deter, or respond to terrorist incidents. There was sporadic interagency cooperation and coordination, and information-sharing was limited. The weakness of the judicial system with respect to terrorism-related crimes discouraged law enforcement officials.

Regarding border security, the security of Yemeni travel documents remained an acute vulnerability due to pervasive corruption. Yemen possessed biographic and biometric screening capabilities at 26 ports of entry (eight airports, six land border stations, and 12 seaports) through the adoption of the Terrorist Interdiction Program's (TIP) Personal Identification Secure Comparison Evaluation System (PISCES). Yemen's Immigration, Passport, and Nationality Administration has managed and operated PISCES since 2002.

Yemen continued to participate in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. In 2013, the ATA program had a broad number of strategic objectives, including protecting senior leaders from terrorist attacks, enhancing investigative capacity, strengthening border security capacity, and improving law enforcement officers' leadership and management skills.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Yemen is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, 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. Since February 2010, Yemen has been publicly identified by the FATF as a jurisdiction with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies, and Yemen has committed to an action plan with the FATF to address these weaknesses. In October 2013, the FATF noted the country's progress but urged the authorities to focus on adequately criminalizing money laundering and terrorist financing and establishing and implementing adequate procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets.

In 2012 and 2013, the financial intelligence unit (FIU) participated in training to enhance its operational capacity. Yemen has a cross-border cash declaration or disclosure requirement for cash amounts over US $15,000. The FIU and Tax Authority have increased coordination in reporting and investigating suspicious quantities of cash at ports of entry. There are approximately 530 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. Yemeni legislation does not allow for the forfeiture of terrorist assets.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm

Regional and International Cooperation: Yemen continued to cooperate with and be advised by the Gulf Cooperation Council, the United States, and Jordan, with respect to its military restructuring plan. In April, Yemen also hosted the first Gulf of Aden Regional Counterterrorism Forum to coordinate counterterrorism capacity building with Djibouti and Somalia.

Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: President Hadi and other senior officials stressed the importance of countering terrorism by addressing the conditions that terrorists exploit. The Yemeni government expressed support for a rehabilitation and reintegration program for violent extremists, similar to the Mohammed bin Naif Center for Counseling and Care in Saudi Arabia. Yemeni officials explored the idea with the UN's Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), which is leading a major international initiative in this area. In August 2013, UNICRI established a Steering Group that included the United States to assist the Yemeni government in establishing this type of program.


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