Yemen army seizes major Qaeda bastion in south

2014-05-08 15:30
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Aden - Yemen's army seized control of major al-Qaeda stronghold Azzan in the southern Shabwa province as an offensive against militants entered its tenth day Thursday, the defence ministry announced.

"Armed and security forces have entered Azzan," the second-largest city in Shabwa, the ministry said in a statement, quoting a military official.

A local government official in Shabwa confirmed that "army forces have entered Azzan without resistance" from al-Qaeda fighters who "withdrew to Al-Koor," a mountainous region nearby.

The official told AFP that "an agreement was reached between local tribal dignitaries and al-Qaeda, allowing militants to withdraw without fighting in order to spare the city bloodshed and destruction".

The offensive began on 29 April in the country's rugged southern and central provinces, where a wave of US drone strikes killed scores of suspected al-Qaeda militants last month.

The defence ministry in its Thursday statement said the extremists were being pushed back by government forces.

Security and stability

"Security and stability are gradually returning to regions which have been cleansed of terrorists" in Maifaa, a Shabwa region where troops claimed killing scores of suspected militants on Sunday and Mahfad in neighbouring Abyan province.

The army on Wednesday claimed that three local leading al-Qaeda figures - an Algerian, a Pakistani, and a Saudi - were among those killed in the offensive.

At least 75 militants and more than 24 soldiers have died in the latest fighting, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been linked to a number of failed terror plots against the United States, and its leader Nasser al-Wuhayshi recently appeared in a rare video in which he vowed to attack Western "crusaders" wherever they are.

The jihadists took advantage of a 2011 uprising that forced veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh from power to seize large swathes of southern and eastern Yemen.

The army recaptured several major towns in 2012 but has struggled to reassert control in rural areas, despite the backing of militiamen recruited among local tribes.
Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  yemen
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