ISIS is steadily gaining strength in another Middle Eastern country while everyone looks the other way

Will Peace Talks Lead To A Solution In Yemen Civil War?

Militants affiliating themselves with the terrorist group ISIS are taking advantage of a power vacuum in Yemen to establish an increasingly strong foothold there as the government focuses on fighting other rebels, experts say.

ISIS-linked terrorists have launched deadly attacks on mosques, carried out car bombings, and exploited sectarian tensions to lure new recruits, using extreme brutality and violence to bring in new blood and distinguish themselves from the powerful Al Qaeda branch in Yemen, The New York Times reported earlier this week.

"A video released recently by the branch underscored its determination to showcase its brutality," The Times reported. "In one section, the video shows masked gunmen leading prisoners to a small boat that was set out to sea and then blown up. Another vignette showed four captives made to wear what appeared to be mortar shells, draped around their necks, then pose for the camera before the shells were detonated."

ISIS, which is also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh, has also been able to kill some Yemeni officials without meeting much resistance from authorities, who are more concerned with fighting rebels who have an established presence in the country.

Yemen has been in a state of chaos since a civil war started there in March. A Saudi-led coalition, backed by the US, is fighting to defeat the Houthi rebels, who support Yemen's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The coalition backs the government of Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the current president.

The civil war has created a power vacuum in some areas of Yemen where the Saudi-led coalition has driven Houthi rebels out.

That allowed ISIS an opportunity to step in. And no one seems to be targeting ISIS with enough strength to prevent the group from expanding, since the coalition is laser-focused on fighting the Houthis.

"To some extent, Yemen was always on the radar screen of ISIS as eventually part of their caliphate, but at first they were preoccupied with Syria and Iraq and had no time to invest elsewhere," Nabeel Khoury, a former State Department official in Yemen who is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider.

"But with the power vacuum, with the chaos ... that presented both an opportunity and an incentive" for ISIS, Khoury added.

Right now, ISIS seems to be focusing on establishing a solid foothold in parts of southern Yemen. (The Houthi rebels are from the north.)

ISIS will "start with Aden, other parts of the south," Khoury said. "As a combination of forces, this is driving the Houthis out of these areas. They don't have the Yemeni government and military ready to take over. So as you drive the Houthis out, you leave a relatively weak state structure ... That makes it very easy for [Al Qaeda] and ISIS to take over."

See the rise of the Islamic State in photos:

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ISIS is steadily gaining strength in another Middle Eastern country while everyone looks the other way

RNPS: YEAREND REVIEW 2014 - HEADLINE MAKERS Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State (IS) while taking part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province in this June 30, 2014 file photo. 2014 saw the rise of the Sunni militant group Islamic State, which has seized swathes of territory in both Syria and Iraq.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

A man purported to be Islamic State captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh (in orange jumpsuit) stands in front of armed men in this still image from an undated video filmed from an undisclosed location made available on social media on February 3, 2015. Islamic State militants released the video on Tuesday purporting to show Kasaesbeh being burnt alive, and Jordanian state television said he was murdered a month ago. Reuters could not immediately confirm the video, which showed a man resembling the captive pilot standing in a black cage before being set ablaze.

(REUTERS/Social media via Reuters TV)

Smoke rises over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, October 18, 2014. A U.S.-led military coalition has been bombing Islamic State fighters who hold a large swathe of territory in both Iraq and Syria, two countries involved in complex multi-sided civil wars in which nearly every country in the Middle East has a stake.

(REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)

This handout image provided by the Iraqi Prime Minister office shows Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki holding photographs of a man identified by the Iraqi government as al-Qaida leader in Iraq Abu Omar al-Baghdadi at a news conference on April 19, 2010 in Baghdad, Iraq. Nouri announced the deaths of Abu Ayyub al-Masri along with Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. US Military oficials confirmed U.S. and Iraqi forces killed the two al-Qaida figures in a nighttime rocket attack on a safe house near Tikrit.

(Photo by Iraqi Prime Minister office via Getty Images)

BAGHDAD, IRAQ, FEBRUARY 21: An Iraqi security officer patrols the grounds at the newly opened Baghdad Central Prison in Abu Ghraib on February 21, 2009 in Baghdad, Iraq. The Iraqi Ministry of Justice has renovated and reopened the previously named 'Abu Ghraib' prison and renamed the site to Baghdad Central Prison. According to the Iraqi Ministry of Justice about 400 prisoners were transferred to the prison which can hold up to 3000 inmates. The prison was established in 1970 and it became synonymous with abuse under the U.S. occupation.

(Photo by Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images)

An Iraqi soldier guards the site where allegedly top Al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, were killed in a joint Iraqi-US military raid in Al-Dhahiriya in Salaheddin province, 280 kms north of Baghdad, on April 20, 2010. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the US military said on April 19 that Baghdadi and Masri were killed in a raid on a safehouse, which yielded computers filled with emails and messages to bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD SALEH (Photo credit should read Mahmud Saleh/AFP/Getty Images)

A shrine for Iraqi Christians who were killed in Al-Qaeda siege is erected at the Sayidat al-Nejat (Our Lady of Salvation) Church in Baghdad on December 23, 2010 as Christmas for Iraq's Christian community will this year be a time of fear and cancelled celebrations instead of rejoicing following renewed threats by Al-Qaeda and the church massacre.

(ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)

An Iraqi woman walks past destroyed shops on the ground floor of a building the day after twin car bombs in the Karrada area of the capital Baghdad on August 1, 2012, in which some 12 people were killed. July was the deadliest month in Iraq in almost two years, with 325 people killed in attacks, and included the deadliest day here since December 2009, official figures released showed.

(AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/GettyImages)

A lorry drives past a sign welcoming people to the 'Islamic State of Gao' at the entrance of the northern Malian city of Gao, on March 9, 2013. After nine months of occupation by Islamic militants, and subsequent liberation by French troops, Gao is slowly shedding its hardline Islamic way of life, with bars serving beer making a long awaited comeback. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

A fighter of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fires an anti-aircraft weapon from Tel Tawil village in the direction of Islamic State fighters positioned in the countryside of the town of Tel Tamr February 25, 2015. Kurdish militia pressed an offensive against Islamic State in northeast Syria on Wednesday, cutting one of its supply lines from Iraq, as fears mounted for dozens of Christians abducted by the hardline group. The Assyrian Christians were taken from villages near the town of Tel Tamr, some 20 km (12 miles) to the northwest of the city of Hasaka. There has been no word on their fate. There have been conflicting reports on where the Christians had been taken.

(REUTERS/Rodi Said))

German alleged jihadist Kreshnik B (R) listens to his lawyer Mutlu Guenal (L) as he arrives at the higher regional court in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on September 15, 2014 on the opening of his trial on charges of fighting for Islamic State (IS) in Syria, in Germany's first court proceedings involving the militant group. The defendant was arrested in December 2013 at Frankfurt airport in western Germany on his way home from Syria.

(THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP/Getty Images)

An image grab taken from an AFPTV video on September 16, 2014 shows a jihadist from the Islamic State (IS) group standing on the rubble of houses after a Syrian warplane was reportedly shot down by IS militants over the Syrian town of Raqa. The plane crashed into a house in the Euphrates Valley city, the sole provincial capital entirely out of Syrian government control, causing deaths and injuries on the ground.

(AFP/Getty Images)

Smoke rises in the distance behind an Islamic State (IS) group flag and banner after Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters reportedly captured several villages from IS group jihadists in the district of Daquq, south of the northern Iraqi multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk on September 11, 2015. An Iraqi officer said that the operation was launched in the morning with support from international coalition aircraft, and has succeeded in retaking ten villages from IS.

(MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images)

Iraqi Shiite fighters from the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitaries drive a T-72 tank as they advance near the town of Tal Abtah, south of Tal Afar, on November 30, 2016 during a broad offensive by Iraq forces to retake the city Mosul from jihadists of the Islamic State group.

(AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr., Joint Staff Director of Operations Director of Operations, shows before and after photos as he speaks on the airstrikes in Syria during a briefing at the Pentagon September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mayville briefed the press about US and Arab nation joint airstrikes against Islamic State(IS) group targets in Syria and unilateral airstrikes against an al-Qaeda group in Syria.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Men in orange jumpsuits purported to be Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State (IS) kneel in front of armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli, in this still image from an undated video made available on social media on February 15, 2015. Islamic State released the video on Sunday purporting to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Libya. In the video, militants in black marched the captives to a beach that the group said was near Tripoli. They were forced down onto their knees, then beheaded. Egypt's state news agency MENA quoted the spokesman for the Coptic Church as confirming that 21 Egyptian Christians believed to be held by Islamic State were dead.

(REUTERS/Social media via Reuters TV)

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held crisis talks with leaders of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday urging them to stand with Baghdad in the face of a Sunni insurgent onslaught that threatens to dismember the country. Picture taken June 23, 2014.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

Members of the Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades), a group formed by Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, march in Iraq's holy city of Najaf as they prepare to reinforce government forces in the fight against the Islamic State group for control of Fallujah, east of the capital, on May 17, 2016. Iraqi security forces and allied fighters have regained significant ground from the jihadists, securing the Ramadi area earlier this year and retaking the town of Heet last month. But parts of Anbar -- including Fallujah -- are still under IS control, as is most of Nineveh province, to its north.

(HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)

An Iraqi Policeman watches a drone hover near the village of Arbid, on the southern Mosul front, on November 12, 2016 during the ongoing military operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) group. Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to retake the country's second city from the Islamic State group on October 17, and the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) special forces have pushed the jihadists back from some Mosul neighbourhoods.

(ACHILLEAS ZAVALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

A MI 28 provides aerial support as Shiite fighters from the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation), enter the village of al-Tofaha, southeast of the city of Tal Afar, on November 25, 2016, during an ongoing operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. The Popular Mobilisation have focused their operations on Tal Afar, a large town still held by IS west of Mosul and this week announced they had cut the main road between it and Syria.

(AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

Shiite fighters stands near a wall painted with the black flag commonly used by Islamic State militants in the town of Tal Ksaiba, near the town of al-Alam, March 7, 2015. Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite militia fighters struggled to advance on Saturday into the two towns of al-Alam and al-Dour near Tikrit, their progress slowed by fierce defence from Islamic State militants.

(REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani)

F16 fighter jets from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) arrive at an air base in Jordan February 8, 2015. A squadron of F16 jet fighters from the United Arab Emirates arrived in Jordan on Sunday a day after the Gulf state announced it was being sent to bolster the coalition's military effort against the Islamic State. It will conduct joint air strikes with Jordanian colleagues against the Islamic militants, Jordanian officials said on Saturday.

(REUTERS/Petra News Agency)

Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mayville talked about the U.S. and Arab air strikes in Syria against the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A girl holds up a poster with pictures of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians beheaded by Islamic State in Libya, as they gather in a gesture to show their solidarity, in front of the Egyptian embassy in Amman February 17, 2015.

(REUTERS/ Muhammad Hamed)

Shi'ite fighters, from the brigades of peace loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), take part in field training in Najaf, August 23, 2014.

(REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani)

A Kurdish fighter keeps guard while overlooking positions of Islamic State militants near Mosul in northern Iraq August 19, 2014. Sunni Muslim fighters led by the Islamic State swept through much of northern and western Iraq in June, capturing the Sunni cities of Tikrit and Mosul as well as the Mosul dam, which controls water and power supplies to millions of people down the Tigris river valley.

(REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal)

AL-QARYATAYN, SYRIA. APRIL 7, 2016. The Mar Elian Catholic monastery burnt by Islamic State (IS) militants. 

(Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)

Shi'ite fighters look at smoke rising from clashes during a battle with Islamic State militants at the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul, Iraq November 18, 2016.

(REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani)

Indonesian soldiers from the 2nd Airborne Division patrol after parachuting from a transport aircraft near Masani village, Poso, Central Sulawesi March 31, 2015 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Indonesia has launched military exercises in the eastern island of Sulawesi, a haven for radical Islamists, as part of broader efforts to crack down on militants with suspected links to the Islamic State group, officials said on Tuesday. The drills come amid heightened government concerns over a rising number of Indonesians pledging loyalty to Islamic State (IS) and trying to join the group fighting in Iraq and Syria.

(REUTERS/Antara Foto/Zainuddin)

An Iraqi soldier holds an Islamist State flag, after pulling it down during a military operation against Islamic State militants in Al-Qasar, southeast of Mosul, Iraq, November 29, 2016.

(REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani)

A man walks in a street with abandoned vehicles and damaged buildings in the northern Syrian town of Kobani January 30, 2015. Sheets meant to hide residents from snipers' sights still hang over streets in the Syrian border town of Kobani, and its shattered buildings and cratered roads suggest those who fled are unlikely to return soon. Kurdish forces said this week they had taken full control of Kobani, a mainly Kurdish town near the Turkish border, after months of bombardment by Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has spread across Syria and Iraq.

(REUTERS/Osman Orsal)

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ISIS' incentive in Yemen comes from the Houthis, whom Khoury referred to as "second cousins" of Shiites. ISIS and Al Qaeda are both Sunni extremist groups, and ISIS in particular has targeted Shiites in attacks.

The Houthi takeover of Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, presented ISIS with a new target, Khoury said.

"The No. 1 target for ISIS from the beginning has been Shia governments, Shia authorities, Shia communities," Khoury said. "Houthis ... are closer to Shia Islam than they are to Sunnis. Having [Shia rebels] take over another country was a challenge that ISIS had to invest in fighting."

Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni activist who is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, echoed this assessment.

He told Business Insider the war had "created a sectarian narrative for ISIS and al Qaeda to build on."

ISIS has been known to pit Sunnis and Shiites against each other in other countries like Syria and Iraq, where the group has gained large swaths of territory.

And if the civil war in Yemen continues to drag on, young people might be persuaded to join jihadist groups, seeing few other viable alternatives for survival. Al-Muslimi wrote in The Guardian earlier this year that "as the poorest country in the Arab world is collapsing in front of the world's eyes, a whole generation of Yemeni youth and children are losing their future."

"The loss of hope among the younger generation is going to create more space and more opportunity for ISIS," al-Muslimi told Business Insider.

Survivors tell of life under ISIS rule:

26 PHOTOS
What life looks like under ISIS rule
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ISIS is steadily gaining strength in another Middle Eastern country while everyone looks the other way
A civilian woman carries her child during a battle with Islamic State militants, east of Mosul, Iraq, January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Civilians walk past Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) during a battle with Islamic State militants, east of Mosul, Iraq, January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
A displaced man, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, carries a woman in the Mithaq district of eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke rises from clashes during a battle with Islamic State militants in the Mithaq district of eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
An Iraqi soldier is seen during a battle with Islamic State militants, north of Mosul, Iraq, December 30, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily
Iraqi people flee the Islamic State stronghold in the town of Bartella, east of Mosul, December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Iraqi people flee the Islamic State stronghold in the town of Bartella, east of Mosul, December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Iraqi rapid response forces cook food in their headquarters during the war against the Islamic state militants east of Mosul, Iraq, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily
Mohammad Hassan, whose hand was chopped off by Islamic State militants, sits outside a house at Nimrud village, south of Mosul, Iraq, December 13, 2016. Picture taken December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Displaced Iraqi boys, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, warm themselves by a fire in Khazer camp, Iraq,December 15, 2016.REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Displaced Iraqi woman, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, bids her relatives farewell as she leave Khazer camp to go home, Iraq December 10, 2016.REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Iraqi Christians come to visit the heavily damaged Church of the Immaculate Conception after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
An Iraqi father (L) mourns the death of his son, who was killed during clashes in the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, in al-Samah neighborhood, Iraq December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
An Iraqi girl, who was wounded during clashes in the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, lies on a bed at a field hospital in al-Samah neighborhood, Iraq December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Displaced people who fled the clashes transfer to camps during a battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, November 30, 2016 REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A member of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) gestures in military vehicle during a battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, November 30, 2016 REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man gestures as other men sit on the ground as an Iraqi Special forces intelligence team check their ID cards as they search for Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq November 27, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Two men hold hands as an Iraqi Special forces intelligence team searches for Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq November 27, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Oilfields burned by Islamic State fighters are seen in Qayyara, south of Mosul, Iraq November 23, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Boys stand in front of oilfields burned by Islamic State fighters in Qayyara, south of Mosul, Iraq November 23, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Civilians flee fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke rises from clashes during a battle with Islamic State militants at the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul, Iraq November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A member of Shi'ite fighters carries a weapon during a battle with Islamic State militants at the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul, Iraq November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A displaced woman from the outskirts of Mosul covers herself in a blanket in the town of Bashiqa, after it was recaptured from the Islamic State, east of Mosul, Iraq, November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily
A girl attends classes after the city was recaptured from the Islamic State militants in Qayyara, Iraq, November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Ari Jalal
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Khoury said the ISIS affiliate in Yemen seemed to be made up of "mostly locals" at this point. It's hard to determine how closely the ISIS militants in Yemen are coordinating with the group's central leadership in Iraq and Syria, but analysts told The Times there were signs the Yemeni militants were in touch with ISIS leaders abroad.

"They've been recruiting locally," Khoury said. "Bringing in foreign fighters from outside is very difficult these days in Yemen because of the war going on."

ISIS isn't the only Sunni extremist group with a presence in Yemen. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, remains the dominant jihadist force in the country, analysts say. But ISIS is growing in strength while AQAP remains flat.

"I think probably AQAP still has the edge for now, although that's probably changing," Khoury said. "It's kind of like a see-saw with the other side rising ... AQAP is more or less stagnant."

And as Al Qaeda's leadership in Yemen has taken hits, ISIS is trying to take advantage of another potential vacuum among jihadists in the region. AQAP is reportedly "closely watching" ISIS' efforts in Yemen as ISIS tries to "peel off defectors" from the group, according to The Times.

Al-Muslimi noted that ISIS' emergence in Yemen was fairly recent.

"With the war going on and with the Houthis increasing and moving to the south, [ISIS] started slowly emerging," al-Muslimi said.

Khoury pointed out that ISIS and AQAP appeared to be staying out of each other's way in Yemen, but they still compete for recruits.

"They're fighting for the same space: Sunni radical recruitment," al-Muslimi said, adding that Al Qaeda "looks to ISIS as something taking space and, more importantly, warriors."

"The level of brutality of ISIS has recruited a lot of people that didn't find the absolute violence in Al Qaeda," al-Muslimi said.

A history of ISIS in Syria and Turkey:

18 PHOTOS
Turkey, Syria, and ISIS fighting history
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ISIS is steadily gaining strength in another Middle Eastern country while everyone looks the other way
Protesters run away from tear gas during a demostration in Istanbul on July 24, 2015. Turkey detained 251 people in coordinated nationwide dawn raids against suspected Islamic State (IS) jihadists and Kurdish militants following a wave of deadly violence in the country, the prime minister's office said.AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish riot police fire rubber bullets to disperse protesters during a demostration in Istanbul on July 24, 2015. Turkey detained 251 people in coordinated nationwide dawn raids against suspected Islamic State (IS) jihadists and Kurdish militants following a wave of deadly violence in the country, the prime minister's office said.AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
ADANA, TURKEY - JULY 24: A military aircraft of Turkish Air Force lands at the Incirlik 10th Tanker Base Command in Saricam district, Adana on July 24, 2015. On Friday, Turkish F-16 fighter jets hit three Daesh targets in Syria in the morning. Turkish jets carried out the operation without violating the Syrian airspace, according to a statement by the Prime Ministry. (Photo by Ibrahim Erikan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Syrian Kurdish woman sits by the window of a house in Suruc in Turkey's Sanliurfa province near the border with Syria on June 27, 2015. Kurdish forces drove Islamic State group fighters from the flashpoint Syrian border town of Kobane, after a killing spree by the jihadists left more than 200 civilians dead. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken from the Turkish side of the border in Suruc, Sanliurfa province, shows a Turkish solider standing as smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on June 27, 2015, a day after a deadly suicide bombing occurred. The Islamic State group killed 164 civilians in its offensive on the Kurdish town of Kobane, in what a monitor Friday called one of the jihadists' 'worst massacres' in Syria. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
KOBANE, SYRIA - JUNE 20: (TURKEY OUT) A Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG fighters stand near a check point in the outskirts of the destroyed Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, Syria. June 20, 2015. Kurdish fighters with the YPG took full control of Kobane and strategic city of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria. Mopping up operations have started to make the town safe for the return of residents from Turkey, after more than a year of Islamic State militants holding control of the town. (Photo by Ahmet Sik/Getty Images)
TAL ABYAD, SYRIA - JUNE 20: (TURKEY OUT) The picture shows the wreckage left by fighting on a street in the center of the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, Syria. June 20, 2015. Kurdish fighters with the YPG took full control of Kobane and strategic city of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria. Mopping up operations have started to make the town safe for the return of residents from Turkey, after more than a year of Islamic State militants holding control of the town. (Photo by Ahmet Sik/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - JUNE 16: Turkish soldiers patrol as Syrian refugees walk to cross the Akcakale border gate in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 16, 2015. Kurdish fighters took full control on Tuesday of the border town of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria by cutting off a vital supply line to its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa. According to Turkish security officials 10,000 people to come across from Syria in last three days.(Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: Heavy smoke from a fire caused by a strike rises in Kobani, Syria as fighting intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, as seen from Mursitpinar in the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, October 10, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
A Turkish soldier stands on a hill, facing the Islamic State (IS) fighters' new position, 10km west of the Syrian city of Ain al-Arab (Kobane) near the Syrian border at the southeastern town of Suruc in the Sanliurfa province on October 2, 2014. Islamic State fighters were at the gates on October 2 of a key Kurdish town on the Syrian border with Turkey, whose parliament was set to vote on authorising military intervention against the jihadists. Kurdish militiamen backed by US-led air strikes were locked in fierce fighting to prevent the besieged border town of Kobane from falling to IS group fighters. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of Turkish medical service stands in the southeastern town of Suruc in the Sanliurfa province as Syrian Kurds cross the border between Syria and Turkey on October 1, 2014. Tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds flooded into Turkey fleeing an onslaught by the Islamic State (IS) group that prompted an appeal for international intervention. Some of the refugees now want to return to protect their homes and join the fight against IS militants. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 29: (TURKEY OUT) Border village of Alizar residents keep guard during the night and wait in fear from mortar fired from Islamic State fighters as they tightened their siege of the strategic town of Kobani on Syria's border with Turkey on September 29, 2014 in Sanliurfa, Turkey. Tonight more than 20 mortars hit Turkey's southeastern Turkish town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province. Turkish troops could be used to help set up a secure zone in Syria, if there was an international agreement to establish such a haven for refugees fleeing Islamic State fighters, President Tayyip Erdogan said in comments published on Saturday. Militants still held their positions around 10 kilometres west of Kobane inside Syria, witnesses said, with Kurdish positions the last line of defence between the fighters and the town. Kobane sits on a road linking north and northwestern Syria and Kurdish control of the town has prevented Islamic State fighters from consolidating their gains, although their advance has caused more than 150,000 Kurds to flee to Turkey since last week. (Photo by Stringer/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 28: Smoke is seen rising from the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani following an explosion that was followed by further fighting, which saw IS fighters shoot into Turkey for the first time on September 28, 2014 south of Sanliurfa, Turkey. Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) fighters are reportedly advancing with heavy weaponry on the strategic Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which they have surrounded on three sides. Several hundred thousand refugees are reportedly in Kobani and aid agencies are bracing for a massive exodus into Turkey. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
A Kurdish boy stands as another waves to other side near the Syrian border at Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 25, 2014. The numbers of Kurdish refugees fleeing into Turkey to escape the advance of Islamic State jihadists in northern Syria has slowed considerably over the last few days, Turkish officials said on September 24.. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 23: (TURKEY-OUT) Smoke and dust rise over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, October 23, 2014. The Syrian town of Kobani has yet again seen fierce fighting between Islamic State and Syrian Kurdish forces. Kurdish authorities have agreed to send Peshmerga fighters to the Northern Syrian town to fight ISIL after Turkey has allowed passage. (Photo by Kutluhan Cucel/Getty Images)
ADANA, TURKEY - AUGUST 09: A military aircraft belonging to the United States Air Forces lands on the runway at Incirlik Base in Adana, Turkey on August 9, 2015. Eight military aircrafts belonging to the United States Air Forces were sent to Incirlik Base in Adana as part of the operations against Daesh. (Photo by Volkan Kasik/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ADANA, TURKEY - AUGUST 09: A military aircraft belonging to the United States Air Forces lands on the runway at Incirlik Base in Adana, Turkey on August 9, 2015. Eight military aircrafts belonging to the United States Air Forces were sent to Incirlik Base in Adana as part of the operations against Daesh. (Photo by Volkan Kasik/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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Analysts told The Times that though AQAP was still stronger than ISIS in Yemen, ISIS might be just as pressing of a long-term concern for counterterrorism officials.

"For ISIS, it's sort of the same strategy which they've done elsewhere ... you go in where you can and you expand and you, if you can, take over central power," Khoury said. "That would be the ultimate goal.

"ISIS is about institution building ... so they will set up an infrastructure similar to what they have in Syria and Iraq and hope that eventually they can link up" any territory they're able to seize in Yemen with other parts of the caliphate, the term ISIS uses to describe the swath of territory it controls in Iraq and Syria and seeks to expand.

Khoury added: "The ultimate goal is to have one caliphate that has continuous territory."

ISIS' Yemen expansion also comes at a time when the group is reported to be preparing a "back-up capital" of sorts in Libya, in case its central base of operations in Raqqa, Syria, falls.

But the "ultimate goal" is a long way from being realized.

"In Yemen it's going to be a bit of a challenge because you have the whole Saudi expanse and they are nowhere near challenging the Saudis .... so they will not be able to use Yemen to link what they have in Iraq and Syria," Khoury said.

More from Business Insider:
ISIS's global strategy is coming into focus
Italy is sending 450 soldiers to protect Iraq's most important dam against ISIS
Obama's message to ISIS: 'You are next'

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