April 28, 2012

Yemen Crisis Situation Reports: Update 137

By Sasha Gordo  April 26, 2012
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The Yemeni army is attempting to regain control of Zinjibar, a southern city held since last May by Ansar al Sharia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) insurgent arm. Government forces and tribesmen are fighting Ansar al Sharia militants, who have been trying to regain control of Lawder, a city to the northeast of Zinjibar that sits along a main road into al Bayda governorate.
The Yemeni military pushed into Ansar al Sharia-controlled Zinjibar and secured several areas in the city center after a six-hour battle that killed 65 militants on April 24. The military hit the city with airstrikes and artillery on April 23 before sending in army and security units supported by civilian fighters to clear the town. Yemeni military forces moved in from multiple fronts. The 119th Infantry Brigade, approaching from the southwest, was able to secure the outlying city of al Kod. The 25th Mechanized Brigade, stationed southeast of Zinjibar, cleared the southeastern approaches to the city. The 201st Mechanized Brigade approached from the north and cleared the surrounding areas. The 39th Armored Brigade entered the city center from the east, securing several buildings on the morning of April 24. Forces moved cautiously once inside the city to avoid mines laid by Ansar al Sharia. Yemeni troops then moved to clear government buildings. The 135th Infantry Brigade has been redeployed to reinforce the troops in Zinjibar. Ansar al Sharia denied that the army has made any gains, while military sources say the army is poised to retake the entire city. Yemeni forces were able to take portions of Zinjibar in July and September of 2011, but were ultimately unsuccessful in liberating the regional capital.
An airstrike killed Mohammed Said al Umdah, an AQAP military commander, in Ma’rib governorate. The strike hit his vehicle on April 22, killing him and at least two other militants. Umdah trained at al Farouq camp in Afghanistan before 2001. He was convicted in 2005 for supporting the 2002 bombing of the Limburg, a French oil tanker, and escaped prison in a February 2006 jailbreak, along with future AQAP leaders Nasser al Wahayshi and Qasim al Raymi.
Violence continues in Lawder in northeast Abyan governorate as tribesmen and the 111th Infantry Brigade battle Ansar al Sharia militants. Thirteen militants were killed in an artillery barrage on Ansar al Sharia positions by government forces assisted by civilian groups of government supporters called “Popular Resistance Committees” on April 23. Tribesmen launched two more attacks on Ansar al Sharia positions outside Lawder the following day. Ansar al Sharia has been active in Lawder district since last year, and fighting has intensified around the city since militants attacked a military outpost in the area on April 9, 2012.
http://www.criticalthreats.org/yemen/yemen-crisis-situation-reports-update-137-april-26-2012
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