Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Yemen Province

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Yemen Province
ولاية اليمن
Participant in the Yemeni Civil War
AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg
Active13 November 2014–present
IdeologySalafist Islamism
Salafist Jihadism
LeadersAbu Bakr al-Baghdadi (2014-2019)  (Leader of ISIL)
Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi (2019-present) (Leader of ISIL)
Abu Bilal al-Harbi [1]
(c. 2014 - March 2017 or earlier)
Abu Osama al-Muhajir[2] (POW)[3][4]
(March 2017 - 25 June 2019)
Area of operations Yemen
Size300 (June 2015)[5]
250–500 (2018)[2]
Part ofAQMI Flag asymmetric.svg Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Opponent(s)State opponents

Non-state opponents

Battles and war(s)Yemeni Civil War

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Yemen Province (ISIL-YP; Arabic: الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام – ولاية اليَمَن‎, ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī 'l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām – Wilayat al-Yaman) is a branch of the militant Islamist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), active in Yemen. ISIL announced the group's formation on 13 November 2014.[8][9]


Yemen Province's organizational structure is divided into geographical based sub-units. There are at least eight known sub-provinces active in Yemen as of 2015, many named after existing administrative divisions of Yemen:[10]

At least seven separate sub-wilayah have claimed responsibility for attacks in Yemen, including Wilayah Sana'a, Wilayah Lahij, and Wilayah al-Bayda.[11][12]

By 2018 all Wilayats in Yemen were merged together as a singular "Yemen Wilayah" similar to ISIL's merger of its Iraqi and Syrian provinces into singular provinces rather than several smaller ones.[13]


On 13 November 2014, ISIL announced that a branch of the group had been established in Yemen, following pledges of allegiance made by unidentified militants in the country. al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the strongest militant group in the country, rejected this establishment.[8][14] By December of that year, ISIL had begun to build an active presence inside Yemen, and its recruitment drive brought it into direct competition with AQAP.[15][16] The branch's first attack occurred in March 2015, when it carried out suicide bombings on 2 Shia Mosques in the Yemeni capital.[1][17] In the following months it continued to carry out attacks aimed largely at civilian targets associated with the Shia Houthi movement.[5]

The group has been able to attract recruits by appealing to heightened sectarianism in the country following the outbreak of the Yemeni Civil War in 2015.[12] It has received a number of defectors from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who are drawn by the group's money and its ability to carry out regular attacks against the Houthis. This has led to increased tensions with AQAP, although the two sides had avoided clashes as of late 2015.[5][18]

On 6 October 2015, ISIL militants conducted a series of suicide bombings in Aden that killed 15 soldiers affiliated with the Hadi government and the Saudi-led coalition.[6] The attacks were directed against the al-Qasr hotel, which had been a headquarters for pro-Hadi officials, and also military facilities.[6] The group carried out further attacks against pro-Hadi forces, including the December 2015 assassination of Aden's governor.[19] The group experienced a major split in the same month, when dozens of its members, including military and religious leaders, publicly rejected ISIL's leader in Yemen for perceived violations of Sharia. ISIL's central command condemned the dissenters, accusing them of violating their pledge to al-Baghdadi.[20][21] A member of AQAP claimed in early 2016 that about 30 members of ISIL in Yemen had recently defected to his organisation, unhappy with the group's tactics and targeting of mosques and Muslim civilians.[22]

On 15 May 2016, ISIL militants claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 25 police recruits in the city of Mukalla in southern Yemen. AQAP was forced out of the city in April by the Saudi-led coalition.[23]

On 30 August 2019 , ISIL claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 3 soldiers of security belt forces.[citation needed]


The first known leader of ISIL-YP was Abu Bilal al-Harbi, who was identified by BuzzFeed News as the leader of ISIL-YP on 6 July 2015, although it's not clear if he was part of the group since its inception or joined at some later point.[1] In March 2017,[24] Yemeni national Muhammad Qan’an Al-Saya’ri (a.k.a Abu Usama Al-Muhajir) became leader.[2] On 25 June 2019, Al-Muhajir was captured by Saudi coalition forces.[3]

Designation as a terrorist organization[edit]

Country Date References
 United States 19 May 2016 [25]
 Iraq 10 March 2020 [26]


  1. ^ a b c Gregory D. Johnsen (7 July 2015). "This Man Is The Leader In ISIS's Recruiting War Against Al-Qaeda In Yemen". Buzzfeed. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "S/2018/705 - E - S/2018/705".
  3. ^ a b "Saudi Coalition Says Head of Yemen's Islamic State Captured". Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Video Footage: Saudi & Yemeni Special Forces Capture ISIS Leader in Yemen". Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "In Yemen chaos, Islamic State grows to rival al Qaeda". Reuters. 30 June 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d "Islamic State claims suicide attacks on Yemeni government, Gulf troops". Reuters. 6 October 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  7. ^ Adam Taylor (3 November 2015). "Al-Qaeda dispute with Isis devolves to name-calling". The Independent. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  8. ^ a b Aaron Y. Zelin (28 January 2015). "The Islamic State's model". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  9. ^ "Islamic State leader urges attacks in Saudi Arabia: speech". Reuters. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  10. ^ Joshua Koontz (6 May 2015). "Desknote: The Growing Threat of ISIS in Yemen". American Enterprise Institute. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  11. ^ "ISIS Global Intelligence Summary March 1 – May 7, 2015" (PDF). Institute for the Study of War. 10 May 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  12. ^ a b Brian M. Perkins (7 August 2015). "Wilayat al-Yemen: The Islamic State's New Front". Institute for the Study of War. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  13. ^ al-Tamimi, Charlie Winter, Aymenn (27 April 2019). "ISIS Relaunches as a Global Platform". The Atlantic.
  14. ^ "Islamic State builds on al-Qaeda lands". BBC News. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  15. ^ Brian Todd (21 January 2015). "ISIS gaining ground in Yemen, competing with al Qaeda". CNN. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  16. ^ "Yemeni Al-Qaeda leader hails ISIS gains in Iraq". Sana'a. Al Arabiya/Reuters. 13 August 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  17. ^ "Yemen crisis: Islamic State claims Sanaa mosque attacks". BBC News. 20 March 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  18. ^ "Seven killed in Islamic State suicide bombing in Yemeni capital". Reuters. 6 October 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Yemen conflict: Governor of Aden killed in Islamic State attack". BBC News. 6 December 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  20. ^ Thomas Joscelyn; Bill Roggio (23 December 2015). "Divisions emerge within the Islamic State's Yemen 'province'". Long War Journal. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  21. ^ "More Islamic State members reject governor of Yemen Province". Long War Journal. 28 December 2015. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  22. ^ "ISIS Fails to Gain Much Traction in Yemen". The Wall Street Journal. 28 March 2016. Retrieved 28 September 2017.(subscription required)
  23. ^ "Yemen conflict: IS suicide attack kills 25 police recruits". BBC News. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  24. ^ Center, Sana'a (10 July 2019). "Drone Wars – The Yemen Review, June 2019". Sana'a Center For Strategic Studies. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  25. ^ "Terrorist Designations of ISIL-Yemen, ISIL-Saudi Arabia, and ISIL-Libya". 19 May 2016. Archived from the original on 3 February 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  26. ^