Overview: The Government of Yemen took steps to combat al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in 2014, despite significant challenges posed by elements of the former regime, heavily-armed Houthi forces, militant elements of the Hirak movement, and tribal adversaries. Yemeni security forces undertook two offensives against AQAP – one in the governorates of Shabwah and Abyan and one in Hadramawt – which temporarily reduced AQAP-controlled territory and safe havens. Gains in Hadramawt were hindered in the wake of advances by armed Houthi militia into Sana'a. As of the end of 2014, major counterterrorism operations and offensives by Yemen's armed forces were indefinitely paused.

AQAP's continued use of asymmetric tactics such as ambush-style attacks and assassinations took a heavy toll on military and security forces. AQAP also continued to conduct attacks against pro-government tribes, civilians, and international targets, such as the group's car bomb attack against the Iranian Ambassador's residence in Sana'a and AQAP's murder of two Western civilian hostages (American and South African nationals) during a December rescue attempt. Counterterrorism efforts also suffered from the continued delay in the military and security restructuring process mandated by the 2011 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative and the National Dialogue Conference outcomes, which left many units plagued by divided loyalties and unreliable command structures.

The National Dialogue Conference, which convened in 2013 to lay the groundwork for a political transition, concluded in January 2014. However, political maneuvering by elements of the former regime and other spoilers derailed the peaceful transition process. Most notably, the militant elements of the Zaydi Shiite movement known as Ansar Allah or the Houthis, aggressively expanded from their northwestern stronghold of Sa'ada in 2014. Events dramatically changed with the Houthi takeover of the capital Sana'a in September 2014, followed by the signing of the UN-mediated Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA) which granted the Houthis significant political concessions. Despite the PNPA's call for Houthi withdrawal from the capital and disarmament, the Houthis forcibly inserted themselves into numerous government offices and ministries and expanded further south from the capital. The political instability resulting from the Houthi crisis diverted key resources from official Yemeni counterterrorism operations, which were at a near standstill at the end of 2014. Additionally, Houthi expansion in governorates such as Ibb and al-Baydha, including clashes with AQAP, spurred a significant increase in AQAP attacks in these areas, heightening sectarian sentiments and causing formerly neutral or anti-AQAP Sunni tribes to side with AQAP against the Houthis to defend their historic geographic and tribal locations.

Despite these challenges, Yemen, under the leadership of President Hadi, remained a willing U.S. counterterrorism partner. In 2014, Hadi supported U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen and encouraged cooperation between the U.S. military and Yemen's security forces. This report solely focuses on 2014 and does not address the dynamics that have unfolded in Yemen in 2015.

2014 Terrorist Incidents: AQAP militants carried out hundreds of attacks throughout Yemen in 2014. Methods included suicide bombers, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), ambushes, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations. The following list details only a small fraction of the incidents that occurred:

  • On January 16, AQAP launched simultaneous attacks on three military installations, including a checkpoint and a military camp, near the Rada district in al-Baydha Governorate. The coordinated assault, which included an attempted suicide bombing, killed at least six Yemeni soldiers, five militants, and wounded a number of others.

  • On February 14, AQAP militants conducted a complex attack targeting the Sana'a Central Prison, facilitating the escape of 29 prisoners, including 19 AQAP operatives. A VBIED exploded outside the gate and was followed by a gun battle between security guards and the militants. Yemeni authorities report at least seven guards and three militants were killed in the fighting.

  • On April 15, suspected AQAP militants assassinated the deputy governor of al-Baydha Governorate, Hussein Dayyan, near his home, fleeing the scene on motorcycles.

  • On April 29, AQAP militants ambushed a Yemeni military convoy in Shabwah Governorate using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. At least 15 Yemeni soldiers and 12 militants were killed, with more wounded. Militants also captured a troop transport vehicle and took at least 15 Yemeni soldiers hostage. Two of these hostages were released soon thereafter, with reports indicating that they had been "severely beaten." On April 30, three of the remaining hostages were executed and their bodies left on the roadside, reportedly bearing signs of torture.

  • On July 4, six AQAP militants attacked the Wudayah Border Crossing at the Yemen-Saudi Arabia border in Hadramawt, killing at least one Yemeni soldier and several Saudi security officers. Several militants also died, two of them by detonating suicide bombs inside a Saudi government building after being trapped by Saudi security forces.

  • On August 8, AQAP militants kidnapped 14 Yemeni soldiers traveling on a bus from Shibam, Hadramawt to Sana'a, executed them, some via beheading, in a market in Shibam, and left their bodies by a road near Sayun, Hadramawt.

  • On October 9, an AQAP suicide bomber detonated his vest during a Houthi rally in Tahrir Square, Sana'a, killing at least 45 people and injuring at least 75 more.

  • On November 10, AQAP militants detonated a VBIED near a Houthi-controlled building in the al-Manaseh region of al-Baydha Governorate, killing dozens.

  • On December 6, AQAP militants shot and killed American journalist Luke Somers, who had been held hostage since 2013, during a joint U.S.-Yemeni rescue attempt. A video released by AQAP on December 3 had stated that Somers would be executed by the end of the week if the United States did not meet AQAP's demands. A South African hostage, Pierre Korkie, was also killed by AQAP during this rescue effort.

  • On December 16, AQAP militants in Rada, al-Baidha detonated two VBIEDs near a Houthi checkpoint, killing at least 10 Houthis and an estimated 20 children passing by in a school bus, and wounding many more. Possibly due to popular backlash, AQAP denied responsibility publicly for the attack.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Yemen does not have comprehensive counterterrorism legislation. Cases were prosecuted under a number of sections of criminal law, most with light maximum sentences. Draft counterterrorism legislation has been pending in the parliament since 2008. International experts provided technical advice in 2014 on the revised draft law introduced in September 2013. Prior to the political instability in the capital, the current draft was under review by the three parliamentary subcommittees responsible for counterterrorism law issues (Legal and Constitutional Affairs; Security and Defense; and Codification of Sharia Law). This law 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 2014, many received light sentences due to the lack of counterterrorism legislation or remained in detention while their cases were pending. 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. However, cooperation and information-sharing between these organizations was sporadic and limited. The takeover of security institutions towards the end of 2014 has impeded information sharing. The weakness of the law enforcement system with respect to terrorism-related crimes discouraged law enforcement officials working these cases. Officials also noted pervasive problems with a lack of proper case development and a failure to meet the requirements of the criminal prosecutions process.

In 2014, Yemen joined the Regional Criminal Justice Sector Reform Series, a State Department program that brings together government officials and civil society from states beginning or undergoing political transitions in Africa and the Middle East to share information, best practices, and implementation strategies on civilian security and justice sector reform. Members include Algeria, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Yemen participated in several U.S. civilian capacity building programs to improve counterterrorism law enforcement capacity within the Ministry of Interior (MOI). The State Department, in partnership with the UN Development Programme, provided strategic leadership support to the MOI during the ongoing political transition, including capacity development assistance for the new Inspector General's department, courses on strategic planning and leadership for several newly established central command units, and capacity development and support for senior female police officers within the MOI. Additional State Department programming assisted the Yemeni government in improving its capacity to respond to civil disturbances, improve criminal investigations, process and analyze physical evidence, operate and manage correctional facilities in an effective and accountable manner, and professionalize the justice sector in the area of criminal investigative and forensics. Yemen also continued to participate in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program. However, political instability and the integration of Houthi personnel into many government organizations limited U.S. ability to effectively engage with the MOI and other Yemeni law enforcement agencies in 2014.

Yemen adopted the Terrorist Interdiction Program's Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) in 2002 in an effort to secure borders and identify fraudulent travel documents. Yemen has the capability to conduct biographic screening at multiple land, sea, and air ports of entry.

Yemen has more than 2,400 kilometers of coastline vulnerable to penetration by militants and maritime smuggling of weapons, materials, and goods used to finance AQAP and other terrorist activities, so the Yemen Coast Guard (YCG) plays a key function in border security. In past years, YCG forces have played a critical role in key interdictions of weapons and other illegal materials destined for Yemen-based terrorist groups. However, despite the strong focus the YCG places on counterterrorism efforts, Yemen's maritime borders remained extremely porous due to a lack of capacity. In 2014, Yemen continued its participation in the Yemen Quadrilateral Border Talks, a multilateral forum that brings together officials from Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United States to discuss opportunities for cooperation and assistance in securing the Yemen/Oman/Saudi Arabia border region.

The Yemeni government cooperated with the United States in the ongoing investigations of several murders of U.S. citizens in Yemen, including a civilian who was targeted and killed by AQAP gunmen. Yemen also cooperated in investigations into AQAP kidnapping for ransom activities.

The justice and law enforcement sectors in Yemen continued to face significant challenges in overcoming more than 30 years of neglect by the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Law enforcement entities were frequently plagued by ineffectiveness and mistrust from civil society, and in worst cases, an unwillingness to perform their assigned task. Corrections institutions, while suffering from severe resource constraints, lacked fundamental skills to manage and operate safe and secure facilities. Meanwhile, Yemeni courts have become a victim of political, economic, and security instability – poor facilities, limited or poorly trained staff, forced closures, and absenteeism all exponentially increased the case backlog and therefore denied access to justice. In many cases, suspected terrorists wait years for the conclusion of their trials. Yemeni prison institutions are commonly targeted by violent extremist groups for the 'rescue' of terrorist inmates, which later serves as propaganda to recruit others. Criminal justice institutions and services continued to be identified by Yemenis through the National Dialogue Conference as one of their primary concerns.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Yemen belongs to the Middle East/North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. In June 2014, the FATF upgraded Yemen from its October 18, 2013 Public Statement to its list of countries with strategic deficiencies in its anti-money laundering/countering terrorist finance (AML/CFT) safeguards, in recognition of the significant steps Yemen has taken toward improving its AML/CFT regime and implementing its action plan. The FATF planned to visit Yemen in June, but this visit was prevented due to the security situation in the country. MENAFATF also upgraded Yemen, which is now required to submit follow-up reports every two years rather than every six months. Despite this progress, Yemen faced many challenges implementing AML/CFT safeguards due to ongoing political and economic turmoil.

Yemen's Financial Information Unit (FIU), which operates out of the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY), received 192 suspicious transaction reports as of November 26, in comparison with 166 at this time in 2013. These reports were on a wide range of individuals, including government officials, military commanders, Houthi figures, and AQAP elements. The FIU requested international assistance in developing a national strategic plan to assess the risks of AML/CFT and prioritize additional needs, such as financial analysis training. In 2014, the FIU identified a need to work more closely with the Customs Authority on the risks posed by money laundering, and expressed appreciation for an ongoing World Bank program aiming to improve networking between the CBY and other Yemeni banks and increase monitoring of banks' transactions.

In October 2014, following the September incursion of Houthi forces into Sana'a, the FIU reported that Houthis posted at the CBY briefly interfered with FIU operations despite a law guaranteeing the unit's independence. The Houthis reportedly used the FIU to target the assets of enemies decried by the Houthis as corrupt, initiating proceedings via the FIU to freeze the assets of a number of these individuals.

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 (GCC), the United States, and other donor countries with respect to its military restructuring plan, in accordance with NDC outcomes. It participated in several Global Counterterrorism Forum workshops. Yemen participated in the second annual Gulf of Aden Regional Counterterrorism Forum in February to support counterterrorism capacity and partnership building in Yemen, Djibouti, and Somalia. Yemeni military, police, security, and maritime units cooperated with U.S., European and regional partners on counterterrorism and related security issues.

Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Throughout 2014, President Hadi and other senior officials stressed the importance of countering terrorism and violent extremism by attempting to address the conditions that terrorists exploit, such as a weak economy and low levels of education. Many political leaders and groups also publicly condemned terrorism and violent attacks. The Yemeni government expressed support for a rehabilitation/reintegration program for violent extremists, similar to the Mohammed bin Naif Center for Counseling and Care in Saudi Arabia, although the effort was on hold at year's end.


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