YEMEN: Did al-Ahmar Forces Use al-Qaeda Against The Southern Transitional Council? 

Conflict in claiming responsibility for an ambush in Abyan, southeast Yemen raises questions about the relationship between the internationally recognized government of Yemen headed by Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and al-Qaeda in Yemen, mediated by Hadi's deputy Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar.

 After an ambush on Saturday (August 24, 2019) that killed and wounded several members of the “Security Belt” forces in Abyan, southeastern Yemen, there were conflicting reports on whether the Saudi-backed Yemeni National Army, who was responsible for this ambush or Ansar al-Sharia, which is affiliated with the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization.

Since the beginning of August, south Yemen has witnessed battles between government forces, under the control of Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Vice President of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the highest military figure, and the forces of the so-called "Security Belt" of the Southern Transitional Council, which took control of several presidential and military facilities in The interim capital, Aden, and seeks to secede from the internationally recognized government.

On Friday, government forces announced they had taken control of the city of Ataq, the capital of Shabwa, in a blow to the UAE-backed transitional council.

 After reports of the ambush in Abyan, Yasser al-Hassani, a journalist in Yemeni President Hadi's office, announced on his Twitter account that the national army was responsible for the Abyan ambush: However, Ansar al-Sharia, a conglomerate of factions and organizations, including al-Qaeda, which is more active in southern Yemen, announced late on Saturday on one of its media sites that it was responsible for the ambush against the UAE backed Security Belt forces in the District of Mudiya in Abyan, resulting in deaths and injuries. "

Despite this inconsistency in the adoption of responsibility, the Yemeni government strongly denies the accusations linking it to "Ansar al-Sharia", and stresses that it is unfounded.

Has Al-Ahmar opened Yemen's door to Al-Qaeda?

In the midst of ongoing fighting between the STC and government forces, Hadi's vice president Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who holds the rank of Chief General and rarely appears in the media, is popping up and is placed by a number of Yemeni media sites at the helm of the National Army Forces command of the government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Sources in the the Southern Transitional Council have blamed al-Ahmar for the escalation in Shabwa province, due to fears that he would be politically neutralized if the UAE-backed council, which seeks to revive southern Yemen as a separate state, could resolve the conflict in its favor, especially with a delegation in talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia headed by Aidrous al-Zubaidi, President of the Council.

Peter Salisbury's 2017 article for the Washington-based Arab Gulf States Institute pointed to accusations against Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar of providing fertile soil for groups and factions that later became al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a branch of al-Qaeda in Yemen, especially for the use of AQAP against the Shiite movement "Ansar Allah", known in the media as the Houthis.

The sources also referred to letters exchanged between al-Ahmar with al-Qaeda leader in Yemen, Qasim al-Rimi, asking him to intensify the presence of al-Qaeda to confront the Houthis and the Yemeni army, which was then under the command of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in return for providing financial support for the organization. According to the same sources, the Abyan ambush on Saturday and the conflicting declaration of responsibility could be evidence of the return of the "coalition of interests" between al-Ahmar and al-Qaeda in Yemen, with or without the knowledge of the Hadi government.

 J / M

Article translated from Arabic to English
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