January 2-9: Government forces clash with AQAP, activist murdered in Taiz

Tuesday, January 3Yemeni pro-government armed forces engaged AQAP fighters in Abyan, reportedly killing 15 and losing 11 of their own. “More than 60 military vehicles were involved in the operation, firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades before they were repulsed.”

Wednesday, January 4 At least three pro-government soldiers were killed, and ten more injured, in an engagement with AQAP fighters near Shuqrah in Abyan governorate.

Thursday, January 5 Four Yemeni men held at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay for more than 14 years have been released and sent to Saudi Arabia. Mohammed Ali Abdullah Bwazir, Salem Ahmad Hadi Bin Kanad, Muhammed Rajab Sadiq Abu Ghanim, and Abdallah Yahya Yusif al-Shibli were cleared for release years ago. None of the four, who were captured in Afghanistan, have been indicted or tried for any crimes; all four will be held in Saudi state custody. There are now 55 detainees left at Guantanamo, of whom 19 have been cleared for release.

The Washington Post editorial board writes that the Obama administration has responded symbolically but ineffectually to Saudi Arabia’s war crimes in Yemen, by blocking the transfer of missile guidance kits while allowing through several more important arms sales. This was a token measure to give the administration a way out of the “top-down review” of assistance to Saudi Arabia it ordered after the October funeral bombing in San’a, which killed 140 people. If the Trump administration continues Obama’s policies vis-à-vis the war in Yemen, the board warns, “it will be buying itself a place in a quagmire.”

“A policy of half-measures and moral compromise might be called for if the Saudi campaign were judged to be a vital U.S. interest; the kingdom claims to be fighting a proxy war against Iran, and Yemen remains a base for al-Qaeda. But the conflict is not that simple: The Houthi sect backed by Tehran is allied with a former Yemeni ruler who was considered a U.S. and Saudi ally until 2011. More to the point, the Saudi strategy of bombing the Houthis until they agree to withdraw from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, has next to no chance of succeeding.”

The US Treasury Department added AQAP security chief Ibrahim al-Banna to its list of sanctioned individuals, along with Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza. Al-Banna is an Egyptian national, and a former commander in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization.

The largest orphanage in Yemen—Dar Riayat al-Aytam—may be forced to close due to a lack of funds, according to its administrator. The orphanage’s funding has been cut by the Houthi-GPC government that controls the capital. A child interviewed by Al Jazeera reported that the children are living on a meager diet of rice. Without new government funding, the orphanage will shut down, leaving more than 800 children homeless.

Friday, January 6 Amat al-Aleem al-Asbahi, an activist in Ta’iz who worked for women’s rights and literacy, was assassinated by unidentified gunmen on December 25. The killers were likely connected to the Salafi wing of the Popular Resistance, which had previously issued edicts forbidding women activist from working with or mixing with men. Ms. al-Asbahi may also have been targeted because she is a relative of Abdu al-Janadi, the pro-Saleh regional governor.