ISIS in Yemen

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The conflict in Yemen has enabled ISIS to make its presence felt for the first time in Yemen and al-Qaeda to carve out a strategic territory on the coast of eastern Yemen.  Shortly after the Houthi movement took over the government in Sana’a, ISIS carried out its first significant attack in Yemen when it bombed two mosques full of worshippers from the Houthi leadership, killing scores of people.  The Houthi movement wants to rid Yemen of ISIS and al-Qaeda, and the Houthi leadership paints those who oppose the Houthis as supporters of ISIS and its affiliates.  ISIS responded to the Houthi ascendance in Sana’a with the mosque attacks.   

Al-Qaeda has much deeper roots in Yemen, and when the Houthi movement first carried out its coup in Sana’a against Hadi’s transitional government, al-Qaeda seized the opportunity to lead the fight against the Iranian backed and Zaydi-led Houthi movement.  As the Houthi fighters moved south towards Aden, al-Qaeda fighters spread across a middle band of Yemen from Shabwa to Ibb to spearhead the resistance to Houthi advances.  

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