Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the main militant organization in Yemen and one of the most aggressive Al Qaeda’s branches. AQAP has been linked to attacks on US targets, including the 2008 bombing of the US embassy in Sana’a.See an overview of other Al Qaeda branches in the Middle East
Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, has provided Al Qaeda with a perfect haven: a weak state, widespread resentment of US policies in the region, a vast terrain with fiercely independent tribal areas, a crumbling economy, and a large pool of unemployed young men susceptible to radical ideologies.
AQAP is based in the isolated tribal areas of Yemen’s south and east, close to the border with Saudi Arabia. It has no links to Yemen’s moderate Islamist parties, but it has had some limited success in embedding itself in marginalized local communities ignored by the central government in the capital Sana’a.
In the early 1990s, local veterans of the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan returned home to Yemen. Subsequent attempts at creating nascent Al Qaeda chapters all failed, as the authoritarian government of President Ali Abdullah al-Saleh either repressed or co-opted the militants, who also had little luck in mobilizing the wider population.
AQAP’s declared goal is to overthrow Yemeni and Saudi governments and replace them with a fundamentalist Islamist state. This local agenda is coupled with Al Qaeda’s vision of a global jihad, which makes attacks on US targets in Arabian peninsula and abroad a central element of AQAP’s ideological program.
Between 2011 and 2012, Ansar al-Sharia established three Islamic emirates in the south-eastern provinces of Shabwa and Abyan, garnering a measure of local support through provision of water, electricity and judicial services. This success was greatly facilitated by divisions in Yemen's military, linked to Arab Spring protests in Yemen and eventual resignation of President Saleh in October 2011.
An offensive by the Yemeni army recovered most of the territory by July 2012, but security forces and local government officials remain under constant threat of attack.