Wadi Ubaidah - Marib (Saddam Al-Madani)

Why AQAP Denied Involvement in Wadi Ubaidah Bombings?


Sat, 14-01-2023 01:19 PM, Aden

Ibrahim Ali* (South24) 

Although no one accused AQAP of being behind the latest bombings in Wadi Ubaidah in Marib, the group issued a statement in which it denied its involvement in these operations.

In a brief statement, the group considered the operations which targeted members affiliated with the “legitimate government” forces as an attempt from a third party to spoil the relationship between the group and the governorates’ tribes. It urged the latter to “think well of their mujahideen brothers” according to the statement which didn’t name the third party. 

The group’s keenness to deny its relationship with the Wadi Ubaidah operations has raised questions about the reasons behind it especially that it came concurrently with several operations against the Southern forces in Abyan and Shabwa in South Yemen.

Not unprecedented 

Before talking about the reasons behind AQAP’s keenness to deny its relation with Wadi Ubaidah operations, it is important to indicate that such a clarification was not the first of its kind. AQAP previously apologized to the governmental forces in Abyan for the Ahwar operation against soldiers affiliated with them. The group said that this was just a unilateral action by some of its affiliate members. [1] 

Although the group confirmed its involvement in the operation, it denied that it intended to target the Ahwar forces and apologized for that in an official statement to the Abyan police. The group previously took part in fighting the Southern forces in Abyan governorate between 2019-2021, along with the government forces, whose most elements are affiliated with the Islah Party. [2] 

To the Islah Party also

Although AQAP mentioned the tribes, the statement included an indirect message to the Islah Party who controls large areas of Marib. It seems that the group is worried about possible security moves against it in the governorate under the pretext of these operations. Therefore, it pointed to the role of a third party. It can be said that AQAP through this statement sought to invalidate any plea to target it in Marib which is considered an important historical stronghold for it, especially Wadi Ubaidah.

The group may believe that there are parties which seek to embarrass the Islah Party who controls large parts of Marib at both security and military levels.  Thus, they carried out such "terrorist' operations in Wadi Ubaidah to incite the Islah against AQAP which has a presence in the governorate or to depict the province as an epicenter of terrorism at a time when  the Islah holds control over it. It is not also unlikely that AQAP has concerns about a possible Islah Party's forced coup against it. Thus, it addressed the tribes who are largely influenced by the Islah Party.

AQAP may also believe that the Islah Party will leave Marib like what happened in Abyan and Shabwa months earlier. Therefore, the group has to deny its relationship with the operation to block the way against any new forces who want to enter Wadi Ubaidah under the name of counterterrorism. Over decades, the tribes have been able to prevent army and security forces from entering Ubaidah under any name.

It is important to indicate that the group participated in fighting the Houthis in the province along with the Islah Party and the tribes. AQAP admitted this on more than one occasion. The group took about the tribes and the Islah Party while it didn't refer the so-called "the legitimate government forces." [3]


The group's keenness to issue this denial statement about the Wadi Ubaidah operations reflected its concerns about its presence in the governorate. This presence didn't emerge through launching operations or something like that as AQAP doesn't deem the forces deployed there as a target. Contrary to that, as aforementioned in the previous axis, AQAP deals with those forces as being its allies in fighting the Houthis in North and the forces it describes as backed by UAE in South Yemen.

Such a presence is also confirmed through the US drone raids every now and then. Marib is considered one of the most Yemeni governorates that witnessed American airstrikes against AQAP targets. However, it is remarkable that the governorate has not witnessed any security or military operation against the group for years. Given the US airstrikes, it can be said that AQAP's presence is more concentrated in Wadi Ubaidah. Therefore, AQAP quickly denied any involvement in the explosive device operations.

It can be said that most AQAP leaders who belong to Marib came from Wadi Ubaidah such as Ali Bin Saeed Bin Jamil (Mowahad Al-Maribi) and others. [4]

More important than ever

Although Marib is not the only AQAP's main bastion, its importance for the group is more than ever. This is because the group was expelled from most of its strongholds in South Yemen's governorates following security and military operation by Southern forces during the last period [5] which succeeded in achieving unprecedented results. The latest denial statement indicates that the group is keen to keep this bastion away from any operations or moves that may deepen its current crisis.

Moreover, AQAP probably fears or expects losing its last safe haven in South Yemen's provinces following repeated statements by the Southern forces about the need to expel the First Military District forces from Wadi Hadramout. The group considers the latter as Special Forces in Shabwa. The group expressed its dissatisfaction with what they were subjected to through an audio speech by leader Abu Ali Al-Hadrami. [6]

It is important to indicate here that Marib may be the last important bastion for AQAP in North Yemen after it lost its historical strongholds in Al-Bayda in late 2021.

Accordingly, it can be understood that AQAP is keen to secure its safe presence in Marib. It delivered direct and indirect messages to the tribes and the Islah Party about the Wadi Ubaidah bombings.

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

1- A statement issued at that time and was seen by the author. 


2- Exclusive sources confirmed that the AQAP elements moved freely in the Areas of influence of government forces.


3- An audio speech by its former leader Abu Hurairah Al-Sanaani and also via a Twitter account affiliated with Ansar al-Sharia which was banned later.


4- He was killed by a US strike in Abyan in 2011.


5- Operation "East Arrows" which was carried out in Abyan, particularly against the group's strongholds such as Al-Mahfad, Wadi Amran in Mudiyah District.


6- "South24 Center"

YemenMaribAl-BaydaShabwaWadi UbaidahAQAPIslah