Al-Qaeda declares rival 'Islamic State' based in Zinjibar

Al-Qaeda declares rival 'Islamic State' based in Zinjibar
Al-Qaeda has flourished in the political vacuum created by the war in Yemen
2 min read
05 February, 2016
Al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen have taken advantage of the fight against their rivals, IS [alAraby]
Al-Qaeda's strongest regional franchise, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has officially declared an "Islamic State" in Yemen's southern Zinjibar region, according to local sources.

Residents say dozens of armed militants flooded the streets in what has been seen as a show of force by the group.

The militant group, known locally as Ansar al-Sharia, was forced out of neighbouring Jaar by police on Wednesday after blowing up the residence of the head of a tribal militia.

The group withdrew and headed back to Zinjibar in the province of Abyan - a renowned stronghold of AQAP since the 2011 uprising - where they declared their latest state following the establishment of "the Islamic State of Hadramut" in 2014.

However, Saudi-led coalition military operations in Yemen have not had much of an impact according to Haykal Bafana, Yemeni lawyer and analyst.

Only a few miles down the coast, holed up in Aden, President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi - himself recently the target of a failed IS attack that killed six - has made little progress in the fight against AQAP and the IS group.

Aden, Yemen's second city, has been the scene of a number of attacks and increasing chaos in recent months.

"Silence from Hadi, [while] Vice-President Bahah considers AQ-controlled areas such as Al-Mukalla and Abyan as 'liberated' Yemeni territories," noted Bafana. "Repeated statements by him to say al-Qaeda will be combated soon - but no action so far."

Residents of the newly declared "Islamic State of Zinjibar" confirmed the militants were mostly local tribesmen who had previously resisted Houthi advances in their region.

Bafana said this was not an unusual observation. "[Before the] Aden liberation, al-Qaeda, IS militias and separatist militias were working hand-in-hand to fight against Houthi and Saleh forces," he said.

"However, post-Aden liberation in August; AQAP and IS appear to work in tandem" countering militias armed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The latest developments follow a stern threat by al-Qaeda, which had vowed to seek revenge for the death of a top commander earlier this week.