Timeline: Yemen Terrorist Activity and Statements
February 5, 2006, Twenty–three senior al-Qaeda operatives escaped a maximum security prison in Sana’a operated by the Political Security Organization. The prisoners tunneled 300 meters to the women’s bathroom of a nearby mosque. Reports indicate security officials may have assisted the escape. Several escapees were later killed confrontations with authorities; those who voluntarily surrendered are granted “loose house arrest” in exchange for a loyalty pledge to the Yemeni president.
September 15, 2006, Terrorists launched a complex, coordinated attack on oil facilities in Safer, Marib and Dhabba, Hadramout during shift changes. The first attack occurred in Hadramout at a 5:15 am when two suicide car bombers sped toward storage tanks. The driver of the first car bomb wore the uniform of facility staff, and the second driver was in a military uniform. Guards triggered the explosives with gunfire before they reached their target. At 5:50 a.m, security guards at a refinery in Mareb blew up two white cars loaded with explosives. One vehicle was stopped outside, and the other got through the gates and into the compound. Security officials opened fire and detonated the car about 100 yards from pipelines. The explosive devices were described as gas canisters wrapped with TNT. Two of the bombers were reportedly to among the February 2006 escapees.
November 7, 2006 Al-Qaeda in Yemen (AQY) claims responsibility for the attacks on the oil facilities in a statement posted to Islamic forums. “Our brothers’ blood is not cheap, and the killing of sheik Abu Musab (al-Zarqawi), God bless his soul, in Iraq, is not going to go unpunished,” said the statement, dated Oct. 13. The statement references a videotape issued days before the attacks by Ayman al-Zawahri that threatened attacks on the Persian Gulf and on facilities he blamed for stealing Muslim oil. “These operations were carried out upon the directive of our emir (leader) Osama bin Laden, may God protect him, in which he ordered Muslims to strike at Western economy and drain it, and to halt the robbing of Muslims wealth,” the Internet statement said. The group also called President Saleh to repent, return to Islam and to reject America’s “religion” of democracy. AQY warns the US and its allies that these operations are only the “first spark,” and what will come next is worse.
The trial related to the attack concluded in November 2007 and resulted in jail terms of between 10 and 15 years for several defendants including six suspects tried in absentia. The six were among the Al-Qaeda operatives who escaped prison in February 2006: Nasser Abdulkarim al-Wahshi, Ibrahim Mohammed Huwaidi, Qassem Yahya al-Reimi, and Hamza al-Qaeiti along with Yemeni-American Gaber Elbaneh and Mohammed Al Omdah, both of whom previously surrendered to authorities.
Testimony at trial indicated that al-Reimi was the cell’s military officer. Al-Waheshi was the leader of the cell. Al-Waheshi was Usama bin Laden’s former personal secretary in the 1990’s and was extradited from Iran to Yemen in 2003. He urged jihad for God and bin Laden “through ups and downs” cell members testified, and no decisions were made without his approval.
Abu Bakr al-Rabei, previously convicted in the Limburg attack, admitted that the cell planned to carry out attacks against Western and US interests, as well as the homes of foreign diplomats. He received an eight year sentence. Several other defendants received lesser sentences.
March 27, 2007 Col. Ali Mahmoud Qusailah, head of Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in Mareb was ambushed and killed. Earlier in the day he had met with a top al-Qaeda operative in Yemen who revealed important information, press reports indicated.
June 21, 2007 Qasim al-Reimi announces that Nasser al-Wahishi is the leader of “al-Qaeda in Yemen” (AQY) in an audio message posted on Islamist internet forums. Both are among the February escapees. Al-Wahishi, said, “I have been nominated leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen and I say no to any surrender to government forces. Ignorance and Islam can never blend together. Several tyrants have tried to insert ignorance in Islam but they have all failed….They want us to renege our beliefs and to repudiate some of our principles. But during this time when they have been waging their crusader war, the enemies are being defeated as is happening in Afghanistan at the hands of the mujahadeen,” He said that al-Qaeda “could achieve in calmness period more than expected. It could recruit a lot of youths”, he said, indicating the Yemeni jihaddists “who joined Jihad in Iraq”, a number estimated to be in the thousands and a pursuit legal in Yemen.
July 2 2007 A suicide car bomber killed eight Spanish tourists and two Yemeni guides at an ancient temple in Marib. The suicide bomber was Abdeh Ruhaiqa from Makal village, Raima. He rammed his car into the center cars of a four car tourist’s caravan, detonating explosives in his car. A security contingent was leading and following the convoy. Authorities reported Ruhaiqa was recruited by Hamza Ali Saleh al-Dhayani and trained in the Wadi Abida area in Marib. Other cell members included Nasser al-Wahishi, Qassim al-Raimi, Hamza al-Qaeti, Ali Bin Ali Nasser Douha, and Imad al-Waeli and Saudi national Naif Mohammed al-Qahtani. The cell was sheltered by Naji Ali Saleh Jardan and Ali bin Ali Nasser Douha, later accused of killing head of Maribs CID chief.
August 18 2007 Authorities uncovered a terror plot by returned Iraqi jihaddists who were trained to execute suicide attacks. The cell leader was Mohammad Yaqot a/k/a al-Lahji, suspected of involvement in the July Marib suicide attack.
August 2007 Militants attacked a power station and a government building in Marib, causing a major power outage. The attack was a response to an earlier raid by security forces.
October 17, 2007 Convicted USS Cole bombing mastermind Jamal al-Badawi surrendered and was granted house arrest. After US protests, he is reportedly returned to jail although indications exist that he was freed again.
December 10, 2007 Security services apprehended a wanted member of Al-Qaida. Ali Saleh Amiofa, arrested for the murder of the director of Marib CID.
December 13, 2007 Six soldiers belonging to Central Security forces were injured in two bomb explosions near two security posts in Hadramout at four o’clock in the morning.
December 14, 2007 Ahmed Ali Homran and Abdul-Adhim al-Hitar were arrested in Sana’a, wanted by the security service in several cases.
January 13, 2008 Al-Qaeda in Yemen (YQY) issues its first issue of Echo of Epics, an online magazine issued every two months, and vows, “By God we shall not rest … until we free our brothers and sisters from the prisons,” In an article signed by Abdul- Aziz, the group states, “The blood of Muslims will not go wasted, The Prophet [Mohammad] … has ordered that we free detainees.”
January 18, 2008 Two Belgian tourists and a Yemeni driver are killed in Hadrmaout’s Wadi Dawan district when four gunmen waiting in a pickup truck near a speed bump along a rural road ambushed a four-car tourist convoy.
January 31 Purported Al-Qaeda in Yemen information chief Ahmad Mansour tells Al-Wasat newspaper in a phone call that Al-Qaeda operatives are deployed across Yemen and fighters have instructions from Osama bin Laden not to attack Yemeni government targets, and that the Yemen regime has asked the organization to fight the Houthi Shi’ite rebels. He added that the U.S. was still their No. 1. enemy, and that the jihad fighters in his organization may target tourists.
February 5 Bin Laden loyalist Abu al-Fida (Rashad Mohammed Saeed Ismael) denies AQ involvement in the attacks on the tourists in Hadramout and blames it instead on congestion in the security forces or an individual pretending to be an AQ affiliate. Abu al-Fida often negotiates with President Saleh and PSO head Gamil al-Qamish on behalf of detained and released al-Qaeda operatives.
February 27 The previously unknown Yemen Soldiers Brigade (YSB) issues a claim of responsibility for terror attacks that killed Spanish and Belgian tourists. The statement says the attacks were in retaliation for the killing and imprisonment of al Qaeda militants. The Yemen Soldiers Brigades also warned Muslims to keep away from “foreign and government facilities”.
February 2008 The Ministry of the Interior announces it foiled a terrorist attack that targeted an oil pipeline in Wadi Anshar, located in Sirwah area, Marib province.
February 2008 US embassy learns convicted USS Cole bomber Fahd al-Quso has been released on loose house arrest.
March 2008 In this edition of Echo of Epics, Nayef bin Mohamed Al-Khatani a wanted Saudi member of Al-Qaeda urges al,-Qaeda operatives to to come to Yemen”in order to escape sure arrest by Saudi authorities.” . Al-Khatani was accused by the Yemen authorities of being the main financier of the two major attacks on Yemen’s oil installations in Marib and Hadramaut carried out by Al-Qaeda in Yemen in September 2006 He says Saudi Arabia remains the main battlefield for al-Qaeda, both a as a major oil producer and as the symbolic center of Islam and the liberation of Saudi Arabia starts from Yemen. He says most Saudi al-Qaeda are either killed or in prison. He urges a unified effort between Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda and that the “life and the money of the Saudi mujahideen” be combined with the “land, life and the experiences of the Yemeni brothers.” With this edition of Echo of Epics, AQY begins calling itself “Al-Qaeda in the Southern Arabian Peninsula” (AQSAP) which may indicate a possible link with the Saudi branch known as “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”
March 18 In Ja’ar, Abyan bombs exploded at 3:30 am at the perimeter wall of a public building and police station, wound five soldiers.
Mid-March Qasim al-Raimi, openly attended a funeral in Sana’a and mingles for several hours with fellow mourners.
March 18 Three mortars filed at the US embassy go astray and land in a school yard. One policeman is killed and several school girls wounded. Yemen later names Hamza al-Dhayany as a suspect in the mortar attack on the US Embassy. Al-Dhayany was named in July 2007 as the driving instructor for a suicide car bomber who murdered eight Spanish tourists in Marib.
March 19 In Aden small bombs were place near the perimeter of a bank, with little damage and no injuries. Officials said Islamic insurgents were behind the attack.
Mid March Abu Yahya (possibly Zakaria Ubadi al-Yafee) issues a statement via al-Wasat claiming to be Yemen’s al-Qaeda military commission member and denying the Yemeni government’s version that the mortar attack on the US embassy. (The Yemeni government regime claimed the attack was aimed at a girls’ school.) Abu Yahya says the group targeted the embassy and calls for forming a neutral commission to investigate. He also asserted that the al-Qaeda militants who carried out the attack against the U.S. Embassy are safe now.
March 21 The YSB claims the embassy attack in a statement on alekhlass.net “one of the mortars missed its target and fell in a school close to the embassy. We pray to God to speed the girl students ‘recovery.” The statement said: “We already warned Muslims not to get near to government and foreign facilities.” The group says it is part of the Qaeda al-Jihad organization in Yemen.
March 25 Khalid Abdul-Nabi, leader of the Aden-Abyan Armey accused Yemen’s security of targeting him in an ambush which left one of his escort wounded in Ja’ar city, Abyan. In a statement to Alsahwa.net, he said that five policemen in a military vehicle shot at him in an assassination attempt.
March 31 The YSB released the group’s first video. The video celebrates the death of al-Qaeda member Fawz al-Raibi killed by authorities in October 2006. It begins with a quote from Osama bin Laden and ends with a statement by a suicide-bomber from Sanaa, Abu Miqdad, seen standing between a Kalashnikov rifle and grenade launcher who said that he was ready to sacrifice himself for Osama bin Laden.
March 31 YSB claims attacks on a French oil pipeline and a Chinese oilfield the prior week, claiming they detonated a timed explosive. In an internet statement the group also said it fired mortars at an oilfield in Hadramout “Both these operations are stated as means of support against the enemy,” ther statement said. There were no previous reports of the alleged attacks.
April 4 A bomb attack in south Yemen wounds six soldiers.
April 5 An attack on a checkpoint with RPS’s and gunfire kills one soldier and wounds seven.
April 6 A Western housing complex in Sana’a was subject to a mortar attacks which did little damage.
April 8 YSB in its “statement number 4” claimed responsibility for the mortar attack on a residential compound housing Americans. The group said that the attack was carried out “to avenge our bother Mulla Dadallah.” killed in a US air strike in Afghanistan in May 2007. “A group of the Khaled Ibn al-Walid brigade attacked late on Sunday April 6, 2008 a housing compound for foreign nationals and Americans in Haddah of Sana’a province with three mortar shells,” said the statement. The group also claimed for two attacks on military checkpoints in Hadhramout on April 4. The statement, was posted on the al-Ekhlaas web site.
April 10 Bombs left outside the Nexen compound in Sana’a explode with little damage.
April 12 Two soldiers were killed on Safer road in Marib when gunmen opened fire on a military vehicle. Unknown men have distributed publications threatening the leadership and social figures in Mareb with death for being involved, as they claimed, in killing four Al Qaeda men.
April 12 Yemen claimed to have arrested Abdullah al-Reimi, connected to the attacks in 2003 suicide bombing in Riyad which killed 17, but it is later to be found to be a case of mistaken identity.
April 16 Marib a remotely controlled landmine killed three soldiers at a security checkpoint. A security source indicated the blast followed a series of attacks targeting a local military commander. Gunmen fired at the military commander’s car on Sunday, killing his driver and wounding four people. Earlier two rockets were fired at the military headquarters of Marib province, but they landed in an empty lot and caused no casualties. The same sources said that a bomb planted at the main entrance of the provincial government headquarters was defused.
April 17 Six workers were injured in an explosion at a steel plant in Aden.
April 22 Sayoun central security compound in Hadramout was struck by three explosive left near the parameter wall. No one was wounded. The Sayoun compound was later subjected to a suicide attack.
Late April Mohammed Yarqout, was arrested in connection with mortar attack on US embassy and housing complex. Described as a member of of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Yargout was earlier arrested in August 2007 after the Marib suicide car bombing in July and released two months later.
April 30 Mortar attacks on the Italian embassy in Al-Safia neighborhood caused some damage to the Yemeni Customs Authority. Some reports incidicated car bombs had been left inside the compound.
May 1 A presidential compound is targeted by mortars, later claimed by YSB in Ekhlass website.
May 3 A claim of responsibility for the Italian embassy attack seems to indicate the YSB is operating under the umbrella of the AQSAP, “Al Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula – Yemen Soldiers Brigades – claims responsibility for the blessed operation … on the morning of Wednesday April 30, 2008, (that attacked) the Italian embassy building in Sanaa with two mortar shells,” the group said in a statement posted on Ekhlass.
May The YSB issued a statement saying the group launched artillery shells on the presidential palace,. The AQSAP’s (formerly AQY) May issue of Echo of Epics contained the following statements: “We warn all the unbelievers who enter the Arabian Peninsula that [targeting] their money and their blood are religiously right for us.” The statement said, “We want to tell you that if you enter the Arabian Peninsula under any name or cover, whether as tourists, diplomats, university professors or journalists, know that we are justified in targeting you,” said continued, “We do not respect any of the agreements signed by the Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and various governments.” The group also said it would also target Yemeni security forces and said, “No one will be safe without an explicit permission from Sheikh Osama.”
May 26 Al-Qaeda’s central organization called its followers in Yemen to initiate “tough and painful” strikes against foreign interests mainly those of the U.S. “Marine Terrorism: A Strategic Necessity,” appeared on Ekhlass. “It has become very crucial to develop the battlefield to reach the sea,” the statement urges the Jihadists. “The sea remains the strategic step forward to dominate the world and reinstate the Islamic Caliphate.”
“We hope from our brothers in Yemen to get us back to the old days of attacking USS Cole and French Limburg as such operations influence the people nowadays,” the statement said and its followers in Yemen to focus on American targets. “Targeting a home belonging to “Ali Saleh” (Yemen’s President) or targeting a soldier in a Yemeni village is not useful nowadays,” the statement noted.
June Arrests included 11 suspected al-Qaeda militants, an unidentified high profile Indonesian al-Qaeda, and “most wanted” jihaddist Haitham bin Saad arrested in the Hadramout region and jailed in a prison run by central security in Sayun district.
After convicted USS Cole bomber Fahd al-Quso earlier released on house arrest received overseas money transfers, Yemeni security questions his guarantors. Al-Quso’s family said the transfers came from relatives abroad.
July 15 Abu Yahya issued a phone statement to al-Wasat newspaper that threatened to make Yemen like Iraq if the Yemeni government did not release Al Qaida men and stop hunting them down. “If you want to make Abu Ghraib in the prison of the political security [intelligence], then we will make Yemen second Iraq,”. Abu Yahya said that the military wing of Al Qaida in Yemen will reply in the appropriate time to such “irresponsible actions and arbitrary detentions”. The Yemeni government arrested about 50 young men, including students from Quran memorization schools in June, according to a statement by Abu Yahya.
July This month’s issue of Echo of Epics by AQSAP said, “It is a duty that detainees be freed through any rough way such as kidnapping tourists, who are numerous, or through various other ways.” The group said it was pained some militants “had turned themselves in voluntarily to the ruling regime to improve their situation,” an apparent dig at several of the February 2006 escapees who negotiated surrender agreements with the government. The same month, the YSB issued a statement saying operatives launched three Katyusha rackets on the Safer oil refinery in Marib on June 25 with the goal of “rupturing the artery of Zionist – Crusader supply.” Witnesses said two rockets had been found intact and not been fired, while the third missed its target.
In another media statement, a source close to al-Qaeda told Abwab magazine that “all attacks that targeted police stations and oil companies last months were carried out by Hamza al-Qaeti’s group that he said is different from Qasem al-Raimi and Naser al-Wahishi. It said that “al-Qaeti is interested to carry out attacks just to keep his group’s element enthusiastic, but al-Raimi and al-Wahishi do not agree to carry out operations unless they obtain crucial goals.”
July 25 A previously bombed Central Security compound in Sayoun was targeted by a suicide car bomber at 6 am. The compound is the Interior Ministry’s regional headquarters. Yemeni Islamic Jihad and the YSB later claimed responsibility for the attack which killed one security officer and wounded 18 people. Yemen’s state-run SABA news agency said the bomber drove a 2003 KIA through the security camp’s gates and security forces opened fire on the bomber.
Authorities said Saudi Muhammad Bin Nayf al-Qahtani is believed to have planned and financed the suicide attack in Sayoun . The Sayoun suicide bomber, Ahmad Sayd Omar al-Mushajri, also known as Abu Dajjana Al-Hadrami was a third year medical student in Sana’a.
July 26 The al-Tawheed Battalions of Yemeni Islamic Jihad issued a statement congratulating the bomber on attaining Paradise. The group demanded five million dollars to refrain from more violent attacks and the cancellation of a concert by an Egyptian singer and said the attack was “defending Islam against rallies and celebrations that pollute the minds of our sons and daughters through singing, impudence and mixing of the two sexes.” It said its next operation would be in Sana’a to annihilate those who corrupt youth through singing and mingling of the sexes.
July 27 The Yemen Soldiers Brigades said in a statement on Elhaklas that the attack was in retaliation for the killing of al Qaeda militants in Yemen and later.
July 28 Hamza Al-Quaiti, a 2006 escapees in an audio tape threatened bigger operations if jailed al-Qaeda associates were not released. “You Ghalib al-Gamish ‘head of the political security apparatus’ you will see how our brothers would be freed from your prisons with the god’s well,” said al-Quaiti in his recorded threat. Al-Qamish, head of the PSO, frequently negotiates with Islamic extremists on behalf of the regime.
July 30 Islamic Jihad in Yemen took credit for the suicide bombing in an emailed statement that included a photo of the bomber Al-Masjari. “This attack was carried out in revenge for our brothers whose blood is on the hands of the infidel Yemeni force.”
August 4 Photos of the suicide bomber published by al-Qaeda led authorities to thirty al-Qaeda operatives in Hadramout and four in Abyan including eight wanted by Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the thirty confessed during interrogation to planning attacks in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The raids generated leads to the Tarim cell.
August 10 YSB posted a statement to alekhlaas.net claiming responsibility for throwing a grenade at a police patrol, “The al-Qaeda Jihad in the Arab Peninsula, Yemen’s Soldiers Brigade, has carried out this holy operation, throwing a grenade to a police patrol under a bridge linking Mukalla to al-Sharj of Hadramout in solidarity with our brothers who are in custody of autocrats” said the statement. The attack came after al-Qaeda detainees in al-Mansoura prison in Aden sent a letter to AQY leaders Nasser al-Wahaishi and Hamza al-Quaiti.
August 11 Authorities killed al-Quiti and four others in Tarim, Hadramout. Documents and blueprints for a planned attack in Saudi Arabia were found. Al-Quaiti was previously named as the mastermind behind the four prior car bombings and the March mortar attack on the US embassy. A mortar attack on a bridge in Mukallah August 7 was also blamed on the group.
August 19 Five members of an al-Qaeda cell were arrested in Qatan district of Hadramout governorate in the south east of Yemen on Monday August 19, west of Sayoun. At a second hideoutl in Mukallah, police arrested one person and discovered firearms explosives and military uniforms. Authorities later announced the discovery of a huge store of weapons at the hideout including explosives similar to those used in the suicide car bombing in Sayoun and those found at the hideout of the Tarim cell. A workshop for assembling car bombs was discovered. Explosives, shells, RPG’s and ammunition were also confiscated.
August 26 A statement by YSB spokesman Abu Osama threatened to revenge the killing five of its operatives in Tarim including al-Quaiti. In a statement posted by al-ekhlaas.net said: “We vow to operate a reprisal operation very soon, if God willing. The news is what you see, not what you hear”.
August 30 Security forces in Ja’ar in Abyan engaged in a shoot-out the cell of Khalid Abdul Nabi, head of the Aden Abyan Islamic Army. Five extremists were killed and Nabi arrested. Nabi had surrendered in 2003 to authorities and was previously reported by government officials as living the life of a peaceful farmer.
September 17 In the most complex and lethal terror attack in Yemen since the USS Cole bombing, a double car bomb attack on the US embassy in Sana’a kills 16 including six attackers. Three terrorists were wearing suicide vests. Four civilians and six Yemeni security personnel were also killed. The terrorists managed to breach the exterior perimeter before exploding their car bombs within the second ring. The attackers were wearing military uniforms and driving police cars. Follow on shooters were embedded in the crowd.
Yemeni Islamic Jihad took credit for the attack in a fax to news agencies. “We, the Organization of Islamic Jihad, belonging to the Al-Qaeda network, repeat our demand of (Yemeni President) Ali Abdullah Saleh to free our detained brothers within 48 hours,” said a statement signed by Abu Ghaith al-Yamani. The group said it would attack the Saudi, British and Emirates embassies unless its demands were met. The threatened nations are among major donors to Yemen.