The propaganda arm of Wilayat Sanaa, an Islamic State franchise in Yemen, released a training video online April 24 showing some 18 militants conducting staged drills in the desert of Yemen. The video, which will likely have recruiting value for the new jihadist group, indicates that Wilayat Sanaa has a core of well-trained and apparently well-financed militants in the conflict-ridden country.
Although similar videos have been released by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the past, the video is interesting for a number of reasons. First, the men are wearing matching uniforms consisting of sandals, rifles, load-bearing equipment and turbans. The uniforms are very similar in design to those featured in Islamic State videos from Iraq and Syria.
Wilayat Sanaa militants wear matching digital camouflage uniforms. (Information Bureau of Wilayat Sanaa)
Clearly staged for the video, the uniforms are clean and without signs of wear. Typically, pants, tunics and turbans would be stained with mud or sweat and faded by the sun. The load-bearing equipment featured appears to be in similarly pristine shape with unscratched buckles and new shoulder padding. However, the AKM-S assault rifles carried by the men, although functional and well maintained, show some signs of use. In the background, militants drive what appear to be late-model vehicles.
Late model vehicles are seen in the background of the Wilayat Sanaa training video shot in the desert of Yemen. (Information Bureau of Wilayat Sanaa)
Overall, the militants in the video are well trained. Tactical movements are realistic and practical, and the video is without the stereotypical scenes common to these types of videos, such as trainees jumping through flaming hoops. During firing drills, militants demonstrate sound marksmanship fundamentals, though they are shown walking while firing their PKM machine guns.
AKM-S assault rifles used by Wilayat Sanaa militants appear scuffed in the new training video. (Information Bureau of Wilayat Sanaa)
The video is well produced, with high-quality cameras and editing software providing crisp special effects. In recent weeks, we have seen the Islamic State's al-Hayat Media Center help Boko Haram in its propaganda efforts, and that may be the case with the newly minted Wilayat Sanaa's information bureau as well. Although the militant group seems to have access to money, it is not clear if it is self-funded, has a wealthy donor, or is receiving support from the Islamic State core in Iraq and Syria.
Many observers have mocked the video, saying it depicts only a handful of men in the desert, compared to al Qaeda's very large force of heavily armed fighters in the Arabian Peninsula. However, this video demonstrates that the Islamic State's franchise in Yemen has a core of well-trained and apparently well-financed militants. It should serve the group's primary cause and recruit other Yemeni militants to the Islamic State.