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Al-Qaeda’s Shifting Alliances During the Yemen War

اقرأ المحتوى باللغة العربية

Executive Summary

During the fighting in Shabwa last year and more recently in Abyan, forces affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council (STC) locked horns with Islah-affiliated government forces. Both sides accused the other of links to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Such claims have been a feature of the war since 2015, but are usually more rhetorical than real, lacking evidence on the ground.

Over the last year, however, AQAP has been more publicly sympathetic to the Islamist Islah party than is normal in its often guarded comments. In a speech in August 2022 by Abu Ali al-Hadrami, a top-tier leader who rarely appears in media, the group expressed frustration that the STC-backed Shabwa Defense forces and UAE-backed Giants Brigades forces had taken control of Shabwa governorate following fighting with Islah-affiliated forces earlier in the month.[1] The group had denounced the December 2021 removal of governor Mohammed Saleh bin Adio, who was from the Islah party. These public positions showing apparent bias in favor of Islah were highly unusual for AQAP.

Al-Qaeda has its roots in neighboring Abyan governorate, where it first built up a presence in the early 2000s partly out of a desire to realize the words of the prophetic hadith, “12,000 shall emerge from Abyan championing the religion.”[2] It subsequently expanded into other southern regions such as Shabwa, Marib, Lahj, and Hadramawt, and received a new lease of life when the Arab Spring uprisings and the onset of the conflict current led to a security vacuum in the south, which also saw the Islamic State group spread in Yemen. During the early phase of the war, it joined with other forces to push Houthi forces out of Aden while simultaneously seizing strategic areas such as Mukalla on the Hadramawt coast.[3] Forced back into the mountains in 2016, it tried to gain a foothold in Al-Bayda governorate until it fell to Houthi forces in 2021 – leading to a period when the group was at its lowest ebb.[4]

This analysis examines the history of cooperation between AQAP and different parties to the conflict and how Al-Qaeda became a political football as both the government and Houthi movement tried to present themselves as a natural ally of the United States in its war on terror. It relies on interviews with around a dozen sources close to AQAP, tribal figures, and former active members of the group, including some who were released under prisoner swap deals.[5]


Since the Houthi seizure of Sana’a in September 2014 and the eruption of the wider war in March 2015, Yemeni belligerents have often traded accusations of collaboration with Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The backdrop to such claims is the fact that the United States has been targeting Al-Qaeda in Yemen since the early 2000s, regularly carrying out drone and missile attacks against suspected members. This creates an incentive among Yemeni political groups to brand each other as working with AQAP in an effort to turn hostile US attention on their opponents and strengthen their own positions domestically.

During the war in 1994, the regime of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh used ex-Arab Mujahideen who had fought the Soviets in Afghanistan as shock troops in the south. When the Southern Movement (Hirak) was formed in 2007 to challenge northern domination following the 1994 war, it accused Saleh of boosting Islamists in the south – including both the Islah party and Al-Qaeda – as a buffer against the southern secessionists and the political and social influence of the Yemeni Socialist Party.[6]

In 2011, the battle of mutual accusations entered a new phase as protests erupted in a number of Yemeni cities demanding Saleh’s overthrow. Saleh again accused his opponents of collaborating with Al-Qaeda, and warned that five Yemeni governorates could fall under the group’s sway if his regime weakened or collapsed. To prove his point, Saleh subsequently withdrew military brigades from areas where the group was active, such as Zinjibar and Khanfar districts in Abyan,[7] allowing Al-Qaeda to become the strongest force in the governorate in the years from 2011 to 2014.

However, Saleh’s opponents managed to outmaneuver him as prominent Islah leader Abdelrahman Bafadl called on opposition parties to reassure the US about the war on Al-Qaeda. The US ambassador to Yemen at the time, Gerald Feierstein, confirmed that in frequent meetings with leaders of the Islah party they had fully agreed with the US vision of an ongoing war on terror. “We have a good relationship with the Islah party and we hold regular dialogues with Islah leaders Abdelwahhab al-Ansi and Mohammad al-Yadoumi. We worked closely with Islah during the political crisis when they participated in leading the opposition parties. They have also signed the Gulf initiative and are participating in the reconciliation government,” he said in one interview published in Arabic media.[8] “So our relationship with Islah is normal, just as it is with the other political parties in Yemen. We try to coordinate to confront the radical groups. We have also heard from the Islah leaders that they share our viewpoint regarding confronting extremism and violence. So I can say that our relationship with them is excellent.”

US fear that Saleh’s replacement would not provide the same level of security cooperation proved unfounded when Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi succeeded Saleh as president, continuing the same policy of full cooperation with Washington, as US ambassador Feierstein stated publicly.[9] Yet the mutual accusations of siding with Al-Qaeda remained a feature of the country’s worsening political conflict. After the Saudi-led coalition began military operations in March 2015 in an attempt to restore the Hadi government to power, Houthi authorities in Sana’a accused Saudi Arabia and Hadi’s regime of collaborating with Al-Qaeda.[10] Saudi Arabia reciprocated, with the Saudi press constantly directing the same accusation toward the Houthis, such as when government forces launched an offensive against Houthi forces in Al-Bayda in 2020.[11]

Indeed, one of the Houthi movement’s main justifications for expanding from its northern base in Sa’ada governorate was a need to target militant groups threatening Zaidi Shias.[12] Arabic media had even speculated in the first few months after the Houthi seizure of Sana’a in September 2014 that Washington would be a Houthi ally in the war on terrorism in Yemen, or at least a neutral actor.[13] During Houthi-AQAP fighting in Al-Bayda in October 2014, US forces reportedly bombed AQAP and left Houthi forces alone.[14] But the Saudi intervention gave Washington no choice but to support its Saudi ally, making US-Houthi cooperation against AQAP impossible.

Each side in the conflict now has what it considers evidence to support accusations of its enemy working with Al-Qaeda. During fighting in the central governorate of Al-Bayda in March 2021, the internationally recognized government submitted a list to the UN Security Council containing the names of over 200 alleged Al-Qaeda members who had been released from Houthi prisons.[15] For their part, the Houthis published lists of a number of Al-Qaeda leaders and elements who they said died while fighting in the ranks of government forces in Al-Zahir and Al-Sawma’ah districts in Al-Bayda.[16]

AQAP and the Government

In 2014, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen carried out multiple operations targeting both security and military institutions, including two attacks across the border inside Saudi Arabia at Al-Sharurah, an attack on a military headquarters in Seyoun, and another against the 4th Military Region in Aden, and vowed more in a statement issued at the time.[17] Al-Qaeda taunted the Saudi leadership for its claims to lead Sunni Muslims while in fact cooperating with the United States in its drone and missile operations against AQAP in Yemen. The group compared this stance to the solidarity among Shias that it perceived in Iran’s support for the Houthi movement.[18]

Things changed when Salman bin Abdelaziz acceded to the Saudi throne in 2015 and the kingdom launched its war against the Houthis in Yemen. Al-Qaeda’s policy toward Saudi Arabia began to shift, as indicated by the release in early March 2015 on the eve of the war of Saudi deputy consul in Yemen Abdullah al-Khalidi, who was abducted in Aden in 2012.[19] A source inside Al-Qaeda confirmed in 2016 that the group issued orders not to target Yemeni forces affiliated with the Hadi government or Saudi-led coalition forces fighting the Houthi movement.[20] The aim was to unify efforts in support of the anti-Houthi parties to the war and avoid operations that would revive international interest in the “war on terrorism,” which for the first time had become a secondary issue in Yemen.[21]

The Islamic State group (IS) was able to exploit this position to draw a distinction between itself and AQAP, carrying out attacks in 2015 against Zaidi mosques in Sana’a and coalition forces in Aden, which had become the interim capital of the internationally recognized government.[22] In Al-Qaeda’s view, targeting the government and UAE forces was a naive act that demonstrated IS’ ignorance of jihadist principles that required viewing the Houthi movement as the prime enemy.[23]

Not only did AQAP refrain from targeting government and coalition forces; it engaged directly in the fight against the Houthi movement. Al-Qaeda played a key role during the battles inside Aden at the beginning of the war in mid-2015, fighting alongside Salafi factions and local volunteers.[24] At that time, weapons flowed from the Saudi coalition as freely to Al-Qaeda as they did to Salafi leaders and tribal figures, and Al-Qaeda played a pivotal role in operations such as the battle of Ras Abbas.[25] Al-Qaeda forces also took part in fighting against Houthi forces in the southern governorates of Lahj, Abyan, and Shabwa, and in the northern governorates of Marib and Taiz.[26] Al-Qaeda confirmed its participation in the battles in Marib’s Sirwah district, with daily tweets in 2016 about military operations from an account that Twitter later suspended.

The Saudi-led coalition appeared to turn a blind eye to Al-Qaeda’s role in the battles around Aden in the first few months of the war, since there were few ground forces ready to take up arms following the Houthi takeover of Sana’a and the collapse of government military institutions there. In Marib, by contrast, the coalition asked the local authorities to remove Al-Qaeda elements from frontlines since government armed forces remained intact as fighting units, unaffected by developments in Sana’a.[27] Local tribesmen also formed military camps in Nakhla and Al-Suhail in anticipation of Houthi advances into the governorate.[28]

Al-Qaeda’s response to this was to fight in the ranks of tribal forces, refraining from raising its own banners. A speech by Al-Qaeda commander Jalal Bileidi al-Marqashi, delivered in late 2015, appeared to refer to Sirwah as one of 11 battlefronts in various governorates in which the group fought alongside government forces.[29]

As Al-Qaeda took the decision to join the war in tacit alliance with Saudi Arabia, Saudi authorities seized the opportunity to infiltrate the group. Then came the Saudi welcome of Donald Trump’s victory in the November 2016 US presidential elections, after which Riyadh pushed Washington to refocus on the war on terror in Yemen. In January 2017, Trump launched a major landing operation in the central governorate of Al-Bayda and drone strikes against Al-Qaeda members at the Sirwah front in Marib governorate, where Al-Qaeda was fighting with government forces and against the Houthis at the time.[30]

AQAP emir Qassim al-Raymi, who had taken over in June 2015, made a public statement about the US operation, confirming for the first time that Al-Qaeda was participating on more than one front in the fight against the Houthis, alongside Islah and Salafi forces specifically.[31] Al-Raymi’s public statement meant he was putting an end to these covert acts of cooperation, at least for a while, since it would be politically unfeasible for either party to work together now that past collaboration had become public knowledge.

Then in 2018, AQAP said in a five-part video series that over the previous year it had detained senior figures who were part of a spy network planted by Saudi intelligence.[32] The group took measures such as banning the use of mobile phones and the internet, prohibiting disclosure of the leadership’s movements, and – crucially – ending the cooperation with Islah and Salafis that Al-Raymi had mentioned.[33] When Al-Qaeda fighters took part in the 2021 battles against Houthi forces in the districts of Al-Zahir and Al-Sawma’a in Al-Bayda governorate, they did so independently without coordination with pro-government forces.[34]

Al-Qaeda’s position in the early phases of the war in 2015 was to see the conflict in terms of Saudi-led Sunnis versus Iran-led Shias. In this view, despite concerns over Saudi Arabia as a legitimate representative of Sunni Islam, continuing attacks on the Saudi state would only serve Iranian interests. The limited ideological convergence between AQAP and Islamist factions affiliated with the government – the Islah party and Salafi groups – also encouraged the group to join on the Saudi-government side. In the words of AQAP sources, participation was about “supporting those it considers brothers in religion and belief.”[35]

AQAP and the Houthi Movement

Despite the ideological differences between Al-Qaeda and the Houthi movement, with its ideological roots in Zaidi revivalism in a context of Saudi-backed Salafism spreading in Yemen from the late 1970s, the two sides have communicated on several occasions in recent years.[36] When Sana’a prisons housing hundreds of Al-Qaeda detainees fell under Houthi control in 2014, it presented the US administration with the dilemma of how to deal with the new authorities. But with US backing for the Saudi-led campaign to oust the Houthi regime, the US administration appears never to have reached out to the Houthi authorities to cooperate against AQAP.

In the absence of such an effort, the dynamics were in place for an AQAP-Houthi relationship to develop. Houthi ally Iran provided a model for such a relationship, since Iran has long experience in dealing with Al-Qaeda, allowing its territory to act as a corridor for many Al-Qaeda leaders moving to and from Afghanistan.[37]

Moreover, the Egyptian Al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Salah al-Din Zaidan, known by the nom de guerre Saif al-Adel, has used his base in Iran to steer the activities of the group’s branch in Yemen; his preference for attacks on Western, Saudi, and UAE interests, and avoiding targeting the Houthi movement, appears to dominate AQAP’s current thinking.[38] Saif al-Adel is poised to become the official successor to Ayman al-Zawahiri as the overall emir of Al-Qaeda.[39]

The first sign of cooperation came with the release of a number of AQAP elements from Houthi prisons in exchange for the Houthi authorities’ release of Iran’s cultural attaché, Noor Ahmad Nikbakht, who was kidnapped in 2013 by AQAP in Sana’a.[40] According to sources close to AQAP, the deal was arranged with the support of the Iranian government and Saif al-Adel.[41] There are also suspicions that AQAP was selling oil to Houthi forces while the former controlled Mukalla in 2015-16 – the claim was made by the Islamic State at the time and played a role in souring relations between the two.[42]

While hundreds of AQAP detainees were released in the Houthi-AQAP prisoner swap deals, the Houthi authorities released many others away from the public eye. A large number were freed after signing a pledge not to return to the ranks of AQAP – around 70 people were released in this manner in 2022.[43] One of those men, who was first transferred to Sana’a from a prison outside the capital, said the Houthi authorities gave 10,000 Yemeni rials to each prisoner upon release, in an apparent effort to change their perception of the Houthi movement.[44]

The Houthis knew well that some detainees would return to the ranks of AQAP, despite the pledge and the cash. But the movement saw no interest now in keeping these men incarcerated after having secured the release of Houthi prisoners held by AQAP, and after Al-Bayda governorate – a stronghold for AQAP since 2017 – fell to Houthi forces in 2021. Still, dozens of AQAP militants remain in Houthi jails – some could be freed in the future, perhaps in future deals with AQAP.

The Yemeni government has tried to amplify the Houthi-AQAP contacts that are on the public record but has exaggerated their extent, such as by claiming that Al-Qaeda figures fought alongside Houthi forces in some cases.[45] There has been no evidence of such cooperation and AQAP sources deny it, pointing to the group’s efforts to stop the Houthi advance in Al-Bayda and their official position that the government, Saudi, and UAE-aligned forces are the lesser of two evils.[46] However, despite clear concerns in Al-Qaeda messaging in recent months to dampen the impression of collusion with Iran, the group’s effective number-one enemy in the current environment appears to be the STC and its backers.[47] This year, AQAP leader Khaled Batarfi has deployed more anti-Iranian rhetoric in his speeches, but the primarily anti-STC thrust of their current policy is clear.[48] Only in the war’s early stages was AQAP clearly aligned with the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis.


Accusations of cooperating with Al-Qaeda were often bandied around during the war. In some cases, there was a basis of truth to the claims. AQAP initially fought on the government’s side, notably in Aden and Marib, viewing the Iran-aligned Houthi movement as a greater threat than its main target up to that point, Saudi Arabia. This also led to a respite in US operations against the group in Yemen. But when the Trump administration returned with a vengeance to the previous US policy of targeting AQAP as part of the Bush-era war on terror, Al-Qaeda suffered a significant erosion in its capabilities. It continued to battle Houthi advances in Al-Bayda but later shifted its focus to a new battle against the UAE-backed STC in the southern governorates after its formation in 2017. The rise of an AQAP leadership under the influence of Egyptian-born, Iran-based leader Saif al-Adel further strengthened the voices considering the United States, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the government as the greater enemy.

Mindful of internal criticism, the AQAP leadership has increased its verbal attacks against Iran and the Houthis of late, but this remains mostly rhetoric. On the ground its main adversary has been the STC, since it lost the ability to maneuver in Shabwa following the eviction of Islah-aligned forces in August 2022 and the subsequent STC operations in Abyan which were directed specifically against Al-Qaeda. Continued tension between Al-Qaeda and the STC remains the most likely dynamic in the short to medium term, especially given the STC’s renewed push to present itself as a government-in-waiting in territories of the old southern state, including its so far failed attempt to remove Islah-aligned forces from Hadramawt and Al-Mahra.

Al-Qaeda shifted its operational policy several times after the Saudi-led coalition launched the war in 2015. Its focus moved immediately from Saudi Arabia and its Yemeni allies to targeting Houthi forces. But this didn’t last long. After it was expelled from Mukalla in 2016, Al-Qaeda began to deal with the UAE and its allies as an enemy on a par with the Houthis. Ties with forces linked to Saudi Arabia remained calm until 2017 when new US president Donald Trump ramped up anti-AQAP operations for a time in Yemen. After UAE-backed forces overran Shabwa and Abyan in 2022, ejecting Islah affiliates, Al-Qaeda’s approach changed again towards regarding the UAE as its major enemy, with renewed operations in both governorates and speeches from the group’s current leader Batarfi and figures such as Abu Ali al-Hadrami. The warning to tribes in those regions was clear: the group will now target anyone who works with the Emiratis.

This analysis is part of a series of publications produced by the Sana’a Center and funded by the government of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. The series explores issues within political, economic, and environmental themes, aiming to inform discussion and policymaking related to Yemen that foster sustainable peace. Views expressed within should not be construed as representing the Dutch government.

  1. “Who is the Al-Qaeda leader who supported Islah against the government and coalition? [AR],” Aden Hurra, August 30, 2022,, and Ibrahim Ali, “A reading of the Al-Qaeda tape about the recent events in Shabwa [AR],” South 24, September 5, 2022,
  2. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad al-Imam Ahmad (Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, 1993), no. 3069; and Ibn Maja, Sunan Ibn Maja (Cairo: Dar Ihya al-Kutub al-Arabiyya, 2009), no. 4055.
  3. Tawfeek al-Ganad, Gregory Johnsen, and Mohammed al-Katheri, “387 Days of Power: How Al-Qaeda Seized, Held and Ultimately Lost a Yemeni City,” Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, January 5, 2021,
  4. Abdelrazzaq al-Jamal, “Is the star of Al-Qaeda in Yemen fading? [AR],” Al-Akhbar, October 1, 2020,
  5. Interviews with former prisoners during 2022, tribal figures in 2021, and formerly active Al-Qaeda figures between 2015 and 2020.
  6. Peter Oborne, “Yemeni officials under ex-president Saleh ‘worked with al-Qaeda’,” Middle East Eye, June 4, 2015,
  7. Abdelrazzaq al-Jamal, “Al-Qaeda’s Decline in Yemen: An Abandonment of Ideology Amid a Crisis of Leadership,” Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, September 29, 2021,
  8. “Feierstein: The Houthis are not serious with their ‘death to America’ slogan but use it to get support [AR],” Mareb Press, July 4, 2012,
  9. Ibid; Gerald M. Feierstein, “Resolving the Conflict in Yemen: U.S. Interests, Risks and Policy,” Middle East Institute, March 9, 2017,
  10. “The Houthis accuse Saudi Arabia and the Islah party of supporting Al-Qaeda [AR],” Al-Jazeera, February 26, 2015,الحوثي-يتهم-السعودية-وحزب-الإصلاح
  11. Talal al-Haj, “Yemeni Memorandum to the Security Council Accuses the Houthis of Cooperating with Al-Qaeda and ISIS [AR],” Al-Arabiya, March 31, 2021,اليمن-والحوثي-مذكرة-يمنية-لمجلس-الأمن-تتهم-الحوثي-بالتعاون-مع-القاعدة-وداعش
  12. “Amran falls completely to the Houthis [AR],” Adan al-Ghad, July 8, 2014,
  13. “Al-Arabiya: US air forces help the Houthis against al-Qaeda and tribes in Radaa [AR],” Moragboon Press, October 25, 2014,
  14. Ibid.
  15. “Memorandum to the UN Security Council: Houthi militias are cooperating with al-Qaeda and ISIS [AR],” Al-Watan, April 1, 2021,; details of the report can be read here: “Yemen government gives Security Council documents about Houthi-terrorism links [AR],” Asharq al-Awsat, April 1, 2021,الحكومة-اليمنية-تسلم-مجلس-الأمن-وثائق-عن-العلاقات-الحوثية-ـ-الإرهابية
  16. “Al-Qaeda and Daesh: Partners in the American coalition for war against Yemen [AR],”, January 20, 2021,
  17. Sami Aboudi, “Two militants blow themselves up in southern Saudi Arabia,” Reuters, July 6, 2014,
  18. “Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen: Saudi Arabia sent us drones, spies, and agents under American guidance, [AR],” Al-Watan, March 12, 2013,قيادي-في-القاعدة-في-اليمن-السعودية-ترس/
  19. “The Curious Tale of Houthi-AQAP Prisoner Exchanges in Yemen,” Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, December 17, 2021,
  20. Interview with a source inside Al-Qaeda, March 2016.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Mohammed Ghobari, Mohammed Mukhashaf, “Suicide bombers kill 137 in Yemen mosque attacks,” Reuters, March 20, 2015,
  23. Ibid.
  24. “Is Saudi Arabia able to put a limit to Al-Qaeda in Yemen? [AR]” France 24, August 28, 2015,اليمن-السعودية-الحوثيون-القاعدة-تنظيم-الدولة-الإسلامية-عدن-التحالف
  25. Adel al-Ahmadi, “Daesh in Yemen: al-Qaeda’s obscure rival for leadership and influence [AR],” The New Arab, February 19, 2016,”داعش”-اليمن-منافس-“القاعدة”-الغامض-في-النفوذ-والقيادة
  26. Post on the Ansar al-Sharia Twitter account, which was later removed.
  27. “Is Saudi Arabia able to put a limit to Al-Qaeda in Yemen? [AR]” France 24, August 28, 2015,اليمن-السعودية-الحوثيون-القاعدة-تنظيم-الدولة-الإسلامية-عدن-التحالف
  28. Interviews with tribesmen, early 2017.
  29. Bideidi, who was from Abyan, was killed there in a suspected US drone attack in February 2016; Adel al-Ahmadi, “Assassination of Jalal Bileidi: A blow to Al-Qaeda as it expands in Yemen [AR],” The New Arab, February 5, 2016,اغتيال-جلال-بلعيدي-ضربة-لـ”القاعدة”-في-ظلّ-توسّعه-يمنياً; and interview with Al-Marqashi, “The Abyan emir of Al-Qaeda’s Ansar al-Sharia Jalal al-Marqashi, [AR]” Al-Quds al-Arabi, May 13, 2012,أمير-محافظة-أبين-من-انصار-الشريعة-التا/
  30. “Yemeni civilians killed in first US raid under Trump,” Al-Jazeera, January 20, 2017,
  31. Badr al-Rashid, “Yemen’s Al-Qaeda announces failure of American operation [AR],” The New Arab, February 5, 2017,”قاعدة”-اليمن-يعلن-إفشال-الإنزال-الأميركي
  32. “Demolition of Espionage,” series of AQAP videos released in 2018.
  33. Interview with sources close to AQAP, 2018.
  34. Interviews with a tribal figure and a former AQAP member, 2021.
  35. Interviews with former Al-Qaeda members, 2017.
  36. “The Curious Tale of Houthi-AQAP Prisoner Exchanges in Yemen,” Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, December 17, 2021,
  37. Hussam Radman and Assim al-Sabri, “Leadership from Iran: How Al-Qaeda in Yemen Fell Under the Sway of Saif al-Adel,” Sana’a Center For Strategic Studies, February 28, 2023,
  38. Ibid.
  39. “Iran-based Egyptian Saif al-Adel is new al Qaeda chief, says US,” AFP, February 16, 2023,
  40. “Noor Ahmad Nikbakht latest,” Al Bawaba, March 5, 2015,
  41. “The Curious Tale of Houthi-AQAP Prisoner Exchanges in Yemen,” Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, December 17, 2021,
  42. According to later deleted Telegram accounts affiliated with AQAP.
  43. Interview with a former Al-Qaeda member who joined Islamic State before returning to AQAP, June 2022.
  44. Ibid.
  45. “Qaeda figure dies in Al-Bayda while fighting with the Houthis [AR],” Yemen Voice, July 5, 2021,
  46. Interview with sources close to AQAP, 2018
  47. “Yemen: AQAP denounces Saudi-Iran rapprochement calls on Sunnis to take up jihad,” Middle East Monitor, May 2, 2023,; AQAP also used drones for the first time in May, directed against STC forces, Nasr Mohsen, “Al-Qaeda brings drones into its war against southern forces: how did it happen? [AR],”, May 29, 2023,
  48. “Yemen: AQAP denounces Saudi-Iran rapprochement calls on Sunnis to take up jihad,” Middle East Monitor, May 2, 2023,