Simultaneous attacks in Aden reveal coordination between Iran-backed Houthis and jihadist groups
ADEN, Yemen - Observers said there was strong coordination between the Iran-backed Houthis and the jihadist groups of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in carrying out simultaneous attacks in Aden in which at least 49 people were killed.
The attacks August 1 also highlighted Iran’s role in enabling the massacre by providing the Houthis with advanced weapons, observers said.
The militants attacked a military camp in southern Abyan province with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles around midnight, setting off clashes that lasted until early morning of August 2. The troops targeted were members of a force trained by the United Arab Emirates, part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels since 2015.
The Yemeni Interior Ministry said 13 people were killed in a “criminal attack” on a police station in Sheikh Othman in Aden district. The Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate in Yemen claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing.
The ministry said an attack on al-Jala Camp west of Brega, also in Aden district, left 36 people dead, including the commander and some of his lieutenants.
The Houthis claimed responsibility for that attack, issuing a statement saying a military parade was targeted with a Qasef 2 drone and a medium-range ballistic missile. UN reports have pointed out that the Houthis developed and manufactured Qasef 2 with the help of Iran.
Some observers cast doubt on the Houthis’ claim, saying the attack exceeded the size and range of the Houthis’ usual military planning, especially considering that it coincided with the Sheikh Othman operation believed to have been carried out by al-Qaeda or ISIS. However, the timing of the attacks could suggest coordination between the Houthis and jihadist groups.
While observers focused on the coordination between the Houthis and other extremist groups, sources raised the issue of the role played by Iran in the drone attack because of its supposed supplying the Houthis with advanced weapons.
The internationally recognised Yemeni government said the “source and purpose (of the attacks) were the same.”
“The two attacks prove the Houthi militia rebels and other terrorist groups are sharing roles and complementing each other in a war against the Yemeni people,” the government said in a statement.
Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed bin Saeed al-Jaber posted on Twitter that “the simultaneous targeting” by Houthi militias… “is a strong indicator” of working with “sister terrorist organisations” the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said the attacks by the Houthis and jihadist groups confirm “coordination and complementary under clear Iranian management.” He insisted that the Houthi attack “is an indication of their open rejection of peace efforts.”
Mansour Saleh, deputy director of the Media Department of the Southern Transitional Council, said the attacks targeted one of the top military commanders in the war against the Houthis.
Saleh pointed out that an investigation was under way to determine who was responsible for the attack, saying the Houthis’ declaration of responsibility should not be taken at face value. He pointed out that the Houthis were eager to claim victories, especially when they indicate an ability to strike at Aden.
Experts warned of additional attacks in Aden following reports of significant activities by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and threats by Mohammad al-Bekhiti, a Houthi leader, who said commanders of the Security Belt Forces paramilitary in Yemen were prime targets.
Ezzat Mustafa, chairman of the Fanar Centre for Policy Research, said the simultaneous targeting of the al-Jala Camp with a ballistic missile and of the Sheikh Othman police station with a car bomb confirms the high degree of coordination between the Houthis and al-Qaeda.
Mustafa said the Houthis and other extremist organisations faced a debilitating crackdown in Aden and liberated provinces. They must have realised they could no longer face the security forces and the military except through joining forces to prepare and execute the operations, he said.