Friday, April 3, 2015

War in Yemen: Map of Territorial Control (April 2015)

Note: There are newer versions of this map available.

This is the second in a two-part report on the ongoing crisis in Yemen, a collaboration between PolGeoNow and CIGeography. Part 1 was the Map & Infographic of Foreign Military Deployments in Yemen.

The below article summarizes the political situation and presents a detailed chronicle of  events over the past several months. The map has been updated since Wednesday's infographic.

Map of territorial control in Yemen at the beginning of April 2015, at the time of Saudi Arabia's military intervention, including territory held by the Houthi rebels and former president Saleh's forces, president-in-exile Hadi and the Southern Movement, and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Map by Louis Martin-Vézian and Evan Centanni (click to enlarge). All rights reserved.
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Timeline by Djordje Djukic, with additional reporting by Evan Centanni

The Disintegration of Yemen
When PolGeoNow published our last Yemen control map two and a half years ago, the country appeared to be holding together, if only barely. Authoritarian president Ali Abdullah Saleh had stepped down in an internationally-backed political compromise to end the country's Arab Spring uprising, and the northern Houthi rebels had halted their advances after promises of political involvement.

Al Qaeda was on the run from its claimed emirates in the south after a military campaign overseen by the new President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi, Saleh's former vice president. A movement for southern independence remained outspoken, but wasn't taking up arms in large numbers against the government.

Now, everything has turned upside-down. The Houthis control most of the country's populated area, and Al Qaeda is resurgent. Now bitter enemies, the former president and vice president have each joined with opposing rebel groups: Saleh with the Houthis, and Hadi with the southern separatists (though he is not himself a separatist).

Military Intervention
Bent on propping up Hadi and preventing Yemen from falling under the influence of the Houthis, Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Sunni Arab countries has seized Yemen's waters and airspace and begun a military intervention. Saudi Arabia is joined by forces from its Gulf neighbors Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE, as well as Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, and Morocco, with support from the U.S. and Somalia.

What brings all these countries together in war? It's partly about supporting the transitional government they backed, but the real issue is a fear of growing Iranian influence, especially over the sea route connecting Europe and Asia.

However, Iran's actual role in Yemen's predicament is unclear: Saudi Arabia claims the Houthis receive military backing from Iran, but so far little evidence has emerged of that, other than the Iranian government's public verbal support for the rebels' government. Countering Al Qaeda is also a priority for many countries, but the Houthis are just as fiercely against Al Qaeda as Hadi is (perhaps even more; Al Qaeda is a hateful enemy of all Shiites).

Stay tuned to PolGeoNow and CIGeography for updates to the turbulent situation in Yemen!

See Also: Infographic on Foreign Military Activity in Yemen's Crisis 

Flag of Yemen Country Name:  
• Yemen (English)
• Al-Yaman (Arabic)
Official Name:  
• Republic of Yemen (English)
al-Jumhūriyyah al-Yamaniyyah (Arabic) 
Capital: Sana'a
Chronology of Events
The following is a timeline of major political events and changes to territorial control in Yemen's current crisis so far.

September 16, 2014
Houthi rebels attacked the Yemeni capital Sana’a and heavy fighting ensued.

September 21, 2014
After five days of fighting during which hundreds of people were killed, the Houthis took full control of the Yemeni capital of Sana’a.

January 18-22, 2015
Violent clashes erupt in Sana’a, and two days later the Houthis stormed the presidential palace. On January 22, Yemeni president Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi resigned.

February 6, 2015
The rebels dissolved the parliament and set up an interim Revolutionary Committee.

February 21, 2015
Hadi fled house arrest in Sana’a, arriving in the southern port city of Aden and declaring he was still the president.

February 25, 2015
A UN report found that former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been pushed out in 2012 after the Arab Spring protests, was actively aiding the Houthis in their advance. He allegedly funded them, ordered his supporters not to obstruct them, and directed an army unit previously commanded by his son to assist them.

March 19, 2015
Forces loyal to Saleh attacked the Aden international airport and carried out airstrikes on Hadi's new presidential palace in the city. The attack on the airport was repelled and the airstrikes missed the palace. The clashes killed 13 people.

March 20, 2015
Five suicide bombers, allegedly representing a branch of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), conducted coordinated attacks against mosques in Sana'a during Friday prayers, leaving 142 people dead and 345 wounded. Meanwhile, fighters of Al Qaeda - which rejected any blame for the mosque bombings - reportedly captured the Lahij provincial capital of Al Houta, but were pushed out by the army several hours later.

March 21, 2015
Some 100 U.S. special forces members were evacuated from al-Anad airbase and left the country, following the departure of 16 British military and security personnel earlier. The airbase is located close to al-Houta, the city briefly seized by Al Qaeda the previous day.

Map of territorial control in Yemen in September 2012, including Houthi rebels, government, and Al Qaeda (AQAP)
Sept. 2012 Yemen Control Map
(click for full-sized map).
March 22, 2015
Houthi fighters and military elements loyal to Saleh captured Taiz, Yemen's third largest city.

March 24, 2015
The Houthis captured Dali’, Kirsh, and the port of Mocha.

March 25, 2015
Houthi forces and Army units loyal to Saleh seized Al Anad airbase and Aden’s airport. Hadi fled Aden, while his Defense Minister was captured. The Houthis had captured much of Lahij province by this time.

Overnight, a Saudi-led Arab Coalition began airstrikes against Houthi and Saleh forces, with Saudi Arabia claiming full control of Yemeni airspace. 

March 26, 2015
Hadi arrived in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, while his forces shelled the Al Anad airbase, forcing some Houthis to flee.

March 27, 2015
Houthi and Saleh army forces completed the land encirclement of Aden following the capture of the port town of Shuqrah. During the day, a Saudi F-15 fighter jet crashed in the Gulf of Aden and its two pilots were rescued by the U.S. Air Force and Navy. By the end of the day, the death toll from the airstrikes was reported to be 80 anti-Hadi fighters and at least 18 civilians.

March 28, 2015
The Houthis continued their advance in Aden as Houthi tanks near the airport shelled the city and the president’s residence was looted. A weapons storage facility also exploded. An NGO worker in the city reported “Aden is falling apart”.

March 29, 2015
The death toll from the weapons depot explosion in Aden reached 52, while a landmine explosion in Lahij province left 25 Houthi rebels dead. The same day, Houthis advanced west from Shuqrah port, capturing Zinjibar on their way to Aden. The center of a claimed Al Qaeda emirate three years ago, Zinjibar is now a center for pro-Hadi forces.

March 30, 2015
Artillery and rocket fire struck a roundabout in Aden after the Houthis advanced on the city from the east. Hadi troops claimed to have recaptured the Aden airport, while a source in Sana’a reported the Houthis were once again in control hours later. Meanwhile, Saleh Army forces were 30 kilometers from Aden and attempting to approach the city. The fighting for the city had left 100 people dead by this point. The city of Dali' was also split by fighting between Houthi/Saleh forces and Hadi fighters.

March 31, 2015
Houthi rebels reportedly controlled parts of Aden, also capturing a coastal military base overlooking the strategic Bab El-Mandeb Strait after soldiers of the army’s 17th Armored Division opened the gates for them.

April 1, 2015
A Houthi/Saleh tank column pushed into central Aden, as the death toll from the battle for the city reached at least 103. Meanwhile, the U.N. had reported the previous day that 93 civilians had been killed and 364 injured in the Saudi-led bombing campaign since it started. Later, new reports said at least 23 more civilians were killed in an airstrike on a dairy factory in Hudaydah.

A local militia leader said the Houthis had been pushed out of Baihan, one of their easternmost footholds. 

April 2, 2015
Armed guards from a Chinese ship landed by sea in Aden to provide aid and evacuate civilians, while the Houthis captured another central district of the city.

At the same time, Al Qaeda militants captured the eastern port of Mukalla, Yemen's fourth biggest city, and freed 300 prisoners from its central prison. Southern militias also reportedly captured Dali' from the Houthis. During the day, the first Saudi soldier was killed in a firefight on the border.

April 3, 2015
Houthi forces abandoned Hadi's temporary presidential palace in Aden, after holding it for one day.

Following this story? View all Yemen maps on PolGeoNow.

Graphic of Yemeni flag is in the public domain (source).