Pictures from Wadi Oemran, Mudiyah district, Abyan governorate, October 2022 (South24)

A Reading of «AQAP» Recent Message to Yemen's Tribes


Sun, 04-12-2022 05:33 PM, Aden

Ibrahim Ali* (South24)

On November 10, AQAP sent a lengthy message to the Yemeni tribes which included some of what had been mentioned in a previous audio speech by their leader Abu Ali al-Hadrami, following the expulsion of the pro-Islah forces in mid-August from the city of Ataq, the capital of Shabwa governorate in South Yemen.

Just as AQAP issued the audio speech after the pro-Islah forces were expelled from Ataq, the last message came after they were expelled from Wadi Oemran in Mudiyah district and from many other areas in Abyan governorate, after a large military and security operation by the Southern forces, which bore the name "Arrows of the East".

This type of message was associated with AQAP's losses, or with the losses of those whose presence has a central role to them. For example, in 2012, AQAP sent a similar message to the tribes of Abyan after it was expelled from the Khanfar district, its last stronghold in Abyan governorate. Despite the different circumstances of each event related to these messages, targeting religious sentiments of the tribes by the AQAP was the common denominator among all of its mentioned messages.

The difference in his last message is that it came in light of the difficult security and military conditions that AQAP is going through. It can be said that they are unprecedented, after the recent military operations in Shabwa and Abyan governorates, and therefore it may carry additional connotations that this analysis indicates.

It is important to point out, before that, that the previous losses of AQAP were in areas of control and not in strongholds, as happened recently in Abyan governorate, and there is a major difference between the two cases. As control of cities and towns is an exceptional and urgent case necessitated by certain circumstances. It may have some gains, as happened during AQAP's control of cities on the Coast of Hadramout, where it was able to obtain a lot of money from the revenues of the ports of Mukalla and As-Shihr. However, the loss of these areas, for AQAP, does not mean a decline in its strength or influence, as the principle is that it is present in nowhere, given the nature of the international war against it. As for the loss of the stronghold, it has a completely different meaning, as it means security exposure, and constitutes a crisis at the level of movements, and means that the options for operational activity, finding shelter, transportation, and others have become scarce.

To clarify: When the army forces announced in 2012 the expulsion of AQAP from Abyan governorate, they did not mean that literally, but the expulsion from the cities that it openly controlled, administered, and fought traditional battles to defend. Because AQAP withdrew from areas of overt control in Zinjibar, Ja'ar, and Shuqra, to the stronghold areas in Al-Mahfad, Mudiya, Ahwar, and others in the same governorate. As for the expulsion by Southern forces of AQAP from Al-Mahfad and Wadi Oemran, it was one of the strongholds, and as a result, its last message came to the tribes.

Wicked message

In its latest message, AQAP were keen to portray what happened recently, as targeting religion, and not just a military action aimed at expelling them from South. With the emphasis that the spearhead of this project (counter-terrorism) are the people of the tribes.

AQAP wanted, through the aforementioned message, to create a gap between the tribes of Abyan governorate and their tribal members within the Southern forces and in charge of expelling them from the governorate, by investing the religious factor that it thinks will be influential within an instinctively religious society. This time, AQAP directed their speech to all Yemeni tribes, or what it described as "our proud tribes in Yemen of faith and wisdom." This call shows that AQAP previous message to the tribes of Abyan and Shabwa failed to win their sympathy, and therefore this time he resorted to expanding his call to all tribes. In addition, AQAP were keen to provide prior justifications for its operations that it might launch in the future against the forces in Abyan governorate, so that it would appear as a defender of religion and not as a brutal killer.

In its message, AQAP did not miss to refer to the Houthis as a threat to the "Sunni people", while recalling its role in fighting it, and that war against it means clearing the arena of the forces that stand in the face of this danger. In the sense that he tried to play the chord of religion in general, and the chord of sectarian fears in particular.

The message also carried a threat to target anyone who advocates or supports the forces fighting AQAP in Abyan today.

In addition to abandoning the considerations that they were giving to the tribe - by avoiding clashing with them -.

As AQAP explicitly affirmed that they would not consider those who were fighting them as tribal members, but rather the members of political parties that assigned them to fight AQAP. Their main goal was to fight religion, as AQAP claimed. It can be said that the threat to the tribes appeared in the letter more than anything else.


Despite all of the foregoing, AQAP's latest message does not indicate that it has entered a new phase of violent operational activity, as can be understood from its appearance, as much as it indicates a real crisis it is going through. This crisis is due to his loss of his main strongholds, and to the fact that those who are fighting him are the sons of the tribes who are involved in the ranks of official forces, as is the case in Abyan governorate, which did not happen in the past.

In addition, AQAP are aware that the tribes of Abyan governorate and other tribes from the Southern governorate will not remain neutral in the targeting of their people, so it tried to place the targeting operations that it threatened with in the context of defending religion.

It is important to note here that this is the first time that AQAP losses major strongholds in Abyan governorate, without it having real alternatives to turn to. It is true that AQAP were expelled from some of its strongholds in the same governorate between 2016 and 2017, following military and security operations supported by the Saudi-led Coalition, but its situation was completely different, as it had many options, inside and outside the governorate. In addition, AQAP realizes that returning to Abyan governorate will not be as easy as it used to be, so it resorted to sending messages of incitement and threats covered by the guise of religion.

In conclusion, the message contained in AQAP statement reveals a difficult security situation it is going through, and what the recent military operations against it have achieved.

*Ibrahim Ali is a pseudonym of a researcher specialized in the armed group affairs. He demanded anonymity for personal reasons.

South YemenShabwaAbyanAQAPHouthisArab CoalitionEastern Arrows