Southern forces in Abyan governorate, October 2022 (South24 Center)

6 Months of AQAP's Escalation Against the Southern Forces


Sat, 24-06-2023 04:50 PM, Aden

The attacks left dozens dead and wounded within the ranks of the Southern forces. On the other hand, many AQAP members lost their lives

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24)

AQAP has remarkably escalated its attacks against the Southern forces since the beginning of this year. Until June 21, "South24 Center" documented about 31 attacks in the governorates of Abyan and Shabwa carried out by the extremist group.

The attacks left dozens dead and wounded within the ranks of the Southern forces. On the other hand, many AQAP members lost their lives. The group launched direct attacks through armed elements, explosive devices, and mines. It also used drones in Shabwa governorate in a development that was described as "dangerous".

The Southern forces repelled some attacks. However, those remotely directed attacks with explosive devices and mines have continued causing loss of lives and materiel amid the lack of a clear strategy to confront them.

The escalation came after a series of unprecedented defeats that hit the group at the hand of the Southern forces over the last months of the past year. This was as part of the "Arrows of the East" military operation by which the group lost most of its strongholds in the central areas of the governorate, especially "Wadi Oemran".

The attacks

From the beginning of 2023 till today, AQAP attacks against the Southern forces are about 31 separate operations in Abyan and Shabwa. The group claimed responsibility for carrying out these attacks in official statements on its media platform "Al-Malahim".

"South24 Center" concluded that AQAP carried out 17 attacks in Abyan and 14 attacks in Shabwa. Most of the attacks were concentrated in “Mudiyah district" in the center of Abyan governorate and Al-Masaniah area in the Al-Saeed district in Shabwa.

The attacks reached their peak in May with 9 attacks. In June, the group launched 7 attacks. In January, it carried out 5 attacks in addition to 8 attacks in February and March. In April, they were limited to just 2 attacks.

17 of 31 attacks were carried out by 18 explosive devices. The group used drones five times in Shabwa governorate, the first of which was on May 12 in Al-Masaniah area.

Moreover, the AQAP carried out 5 attacks through armed members in Abyan and Shabwa governorates who attacked security checkpoints. The extremist group used mortars, an explosive motorcycle, a land mine, and a direct clash with the Southern security campaign to carry out 4 other attacks.

The victims

AQAP attacks left about 28 dead and 52 injured with a total of at least 80 soldiers affiliated with several forms of the Southern forces including the "Security Belt Forces", "Abyan Military Axis", the "Backup and Support Brigades" and the Shabwa Defense Forces. 

The victims within the Southern forces as a result of the AQAP attacks between January 1 - June 12, 2023, divided according to the governorates, - South24 Center 


Death toll








The list of causalities includes senior Southern commanders such as "Abdullah Saad "the commander in the Backup Brigades that was formed at the beginning of this year. The list also includes military commander Abdulrahim Al-Muaakar and security commander Fawzy Al-Bakri. The three commanders were killed in Abyan governorate.

In Shabwa, Major Ahmed Al-Solaymani, a commander in the Shabwa Defense Forces, was injured after being targeted in a drone operation carried out by AQAP in May in Al-Masaniah area.

AQAP casualties

The AQAP lost some of its elements in the attack carried out by armed members against the Southern forces. Military and security sources told "South24" that "nearly 9 AQAP members were killed in the Abyan and Shabwa operations".

The group mourned the death of one of its soldiers in Wadi Oemran in April after being shot by the Southern forces. Additionally, the group lost some of its dens during the "Abyan Tiger 2" security campaign in Wadi Al-Khayala in Al-Mahfad between 9-14 May. 

During the aforementioned campaign, the Southern forces announced the dismantling of mine networks and explosive devices in Wadi Al-Khayala. On May 20, the Shabwa Defense Forces announced finding a fully-equipped remotely-detonating explosive devices in the city of Ataq.

On March 3, sources said that drones targeted AQAP elements in Wadi Al-Khayala in Al-Mahfad district in Abyan governorate. On June 14, another drone targeted AQAP members in Shiaab Madhab area in Al-Masaniah in Shabwa governorate according to local sources contacted by "South24 Center ''.

On June 17, informed sources said that Abu Mohammed Al-Shalwani Al-Awlaki was killed in a likely-US drone attack in Shiaab Madhab area in Al-Masaniah in Shabwa governorate.

It is worth mentioning that the AQAP mourned, in official statements, the death of a number of its leaders, including Saudi nationals who were killed in likely-US drone attacks in Wadi Obeida in the Northern governorate of Marib. 

Abdullah Al-Shadli

Journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies

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