Author’s Note: This is Part II of a three-part series on AQAP in Yemen. Part I described the operating environment in Yemen, identified the basic capabilities and background information on AQAP, and summarized basic US counterterrorism efforts. Part III will discuss the future of Yemen as it pertains to US counterterrorism efforts and the strength of AQAP, as well as possible courses of action AQAP could take as a result of ongoing US operations there.
On 16 September, Yemeni officials announced the conviction of three individuals accused of plotting to kill Yemeni President Hadi and other foreign diplomats—including the US ambassador to Sana’a. Receiving varying sentences of one, five, and seven-year prison terms, three AQAP operatives were found guilty of surveilling, planning, and preparing to assassinate the president outside of his residence in Sana’a.
While AQAP was thwarted in their recent attempt to assassinate President Hadi, nearly 70 high-ranking Yemeni security and intelligence officials have not been as fortunate. The purpose of this article is to highlight the success of AQAP assassinations in Yemen, identify a few of their TTPs, and discuss its effect on US foreign policy.
Who’s on the Target List
As a security or intelligence official operating in Yemen, the risk of assassination (or at a minimum, being targeted or surveilled by terrorist operatives) presents an imminent threat. Since 2012, “roughly 60 officials have been killed [in] Yemen,” nearly all of whom were intelligence officers or security officials who worked in the intelligence sector.