Saturday, October 12, 2019

Yemen Control Map & Report - October 2019

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Map of what is happening in Yemen as of October 12, 2019, including territorial control for the unrecognized Houthi government, president-in-exile Hadi and his allies in the Saudi-led coalition, the UAE-backed southern separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Includes recent locations of fighting and other events, including Ataq, Mahfad, Al Wadhea, Ketaf, and more.
Map by Evan Centanni and Djordje Djukic, from base map by Koen Adams of
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Timeline by Djordje Djukic

Yemen More Divided Than Ever

In the month and a half since our previous Yemen control map report, the separatists of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) have held onto control over much of the country's south, pushing the internationally-recognized Hadi government to abandon Aden and set up a new "interim capital" in the eastern town of Ataq. Meanwhile, fighting between Hadi-loyal forces and the north's rival Houthi government has continued, with both sides capturing territory from each other near the Saudi border.

Flag of Yemen Country Name:  
• Yemen (English)
• Al-Yaman (Arabic)
Official Name:  
• Republic of Yemen (English)
al-JumhĊĞriyyah al-Yamaniyyah (Arabic) 
Sana'a (official)
Ataq (temporary seat of internationally-recognized government)
Chronology of Events
The following is a timeline of major events and changes to territorial control since PolGeoNow's previous Yemen control map report of August 31, 2019.

August 31, 2019
Forces of the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC) arrested dozens of Hadi loyalists in Aden.

September 1, 2019
Some 130 people were killed in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition against a detention center in Houthi-controlled Dhamar city. Meanwhile, clashes erupted when fighters affiliated with the so-called "Islamic State" (IS; formerly ISIS/ISIL) attacked Al Qaeda positions in an area of Bayda province.

September 2, 2019
Hadi’s forces advanced west and south of Harad near the Saudi border, reaching the outskirts of the town and taking complete control of the Maydee-Harad road. They also made advances in elsewhere along the border with Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the STC temporarily captured Azzan, in Shabwa province, before the town was retaken by Hadi’s troops several hours later.

September 3, 2019
It was reported that a large number of pro-Hadi losses in the recent four-day Houthi siege at the northern town of Ketaf, between August 26 and 29, were mercenaries, with most of them from Taiz province. One survivor said 27 fighters from his village had been lost. Overall, pro-Hadi sources reported losses of between 1,000 and 1,900, with most of them captured and the rest killed. The Houthis stated that they managed, during the 72 hours of fighting, to defeat three Saudi-led coalition brigades near the border with Saudi Arabia’s Najran region, capturing thousands of soldiers and hundreds of armored vehicles.

The prisoners killed in the Saudi airstrike on the detention center in Dhamar two days earlier were said to have been captured in the battle at Ketaf, while another Saudi airstrike reportedly hit a prisoner transport, killing or wounding a large number of them. During the offensive, the Houthis managed to capture a 350-square-kilometer strip of territory that pro-Hadi forces had been holding north of Ketaf, including two mountaintops.

On September 3, the Houthis launched the second stage of their offensive, capturing an additional 150 square kilometers of territory as Hadi’s forces continued their retreat north of Ketaf. This advance brought the Houthis within four kilometers of the Saudi border. The Houthis further claimed to have seized more than 20 positions across the border within Saudi Arabia.

Almost one month later, a Hadi government source would confirm the death of some 200 pro-Hadi soldiers and the capture of about 1,300, including 280 wounded, in the fighting at Ketaf. On September 29, the Houthis would broadcast videos and show images of the attack and the prisoners and equipment seized. Saudi Arabia had no comment on the attack. According to the Houthis, 500 soldiers were killed or wounded, alongside the thousands captured.

September 4, 2019
Houthi forces reportedly advanced south of Taiz.

September 5, 2019
The United States engaged in talks with the Houthis for the first time in four years in an attempt to end the war.

September 5-6, 2019
Talks between Hadi’s government and the STC stalled in Saudi Arabia after the STC rejected putting their forces under the Hadi government’s authority, while Hadi’s government insisted on "ending the armed rebellion" and refused to engage in face-to-face talks with the STC. Subsequently, Saudi Arabia called on the STC to hand over control of Aden, voiced its support for Hadi’s government, and threatened “to react decisively”.

September 6, 2019
Fighting took place between Hadi’s troops and the STC on the road between Zinjibar and Shuqra.

September 7, 2019
The recent defeat of pro-Hadi forces on two fronts in Sa’dah province, including Ketaf, was said to be the result of the Islah party failing to engage or even withdrawing its fighters from the frontline against the Houthis and redeploying them in the south against the STC.

The actions of al-Islah, an affiliate of the international Muslim Brotherhood, were said by some to be part of a plan by Qatar and Oman, the two Gulf Arab countries least closely allied to Saudi Arabia. The Muslim Brotherhood is officially banned by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, by not Qatar or Oman. Elements within the Islah party were also reportedly voicing their support for talks with Iran, in concert with Qatar and Turkey but in opposition to Saudi Arabia. Qatar and Oman were also accused of stoking tensions between local militias and Saudi-backed forces in the eastern province of Mahra.

September 8, 2019
Al Qaeda fighters took control of government institutions in Al Wadhea district of Abyan province and set up checkpoints at the entrances to the district. Meanwhile, the Houthis repelled Hadi’s troops and recaptured the positions they had lost west and south of Harad, while pro-Hadi forces slowly advanced north of the town.

September 12-16, 2019
STC forces took control of Mahfad district in Abyan province. However, the following day, an attack by local armed elements on an STC checkpoint left one of its commanders wounded. Over the next two days, fighting was reported between the STC and Hadi’s forces near Mahfad and in a nearby district just over the provincial border in Shabwa. On September 14, loyalist military reinforcements were sent to Shuqra after the STC checkpoint at Mahfad was cleared by pro-Hadi fighters. During this time, the STC was also reinforcing Zinjibar. As of September 16, Hadi’s forces had been blocked from sending forces from Shabwa to Abyan after their attacks were repelled by the STC and their convoys ambushed.

September 14, 2019
An attack hit two of Saudi Arabia’s main oil facilities, cutting the kingdom’s output by 5.7 million barrels per day, which is more than 5 percent of the global oil supply. Large fires erupted at both oil fields, located east of Riyadh, far to the north of Yemen (not pictured on map). Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack - conducted nearly 1,000 kilometeres (600 miles) from their nearest territory - stating that it was carried out by 10 drones.

Saudi Arabia said initial investigations showed Iranian weapons were used, and that the attack did not come from Yemen. The US blamed Iran for the attack, saying it included both cruise missiles and drones and was believed to have originated from southwestern Iran. One official estimated the involvement of a dozen cruise missiles and over 20 drones, while analysts identified at least 17 hits on one of the refineries and two on the other.

Iran denied involvement, while France was unsure if anyone had any evidence to confirm the origin of the drones. The United Nations Yemen envoy told the UN Security Council that it was “not entirely clear” who had been behind the attack.

September 19, 2019
A bomb targeted a pro-Hadi military convoy in Hadramawt province, leaving six soldiers and a Saudi officer dead. At least 13 others were wounded, many of them Saudis. Meanwhile, due to constant STC ambushes in the Mahfad area, pro-Hadi forces could not keep their supply lines open and were forced to withdraw from Shuqra, as well as one other area of Abyan province.

September 24, 2019
Saudi-led coalition airstrikes hit the Qatabah district in Dhale province, reportedly killing 16 or 17 people.

September 26, 2019
Hadi’s government designated the city of Ataq as its new interim capital following the STC’s takeover of Aden. Aden had been the Hadi government’s interim capital for five years due to the Houthi takeover of Sana'a in 2014.

September 30, 2019
The Houthi government unilaterally released 290 or 350 prisoners, most of which had been held since 2014.

October 4, 2019
Al Qaeda assassinated an STC commander east of Mudiyah in Abyan.

October 7-8, 2019
The STC and Hadi’s government were reported to be close to an agreement that would end their power struggle over Aden. The next day, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) withdrew some of its forces from Aden, with around 200 soldiers boarding a military vessel. The STC is often described as backed by the UAE, while Hadi's forces are backed by Saudi Arabia, despite the two countries being close allies.

Following this conflict? Check for updates to our map by viewing all Yemen reports on PolGeoNow!

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