Friday, May 2, 2014
Yemeni army still engaged in major operation against Al-Qaeda in Shabwa province
An official statement from the Yemeni Defence Ministry confirmed on Thursday that Yemen armed forces secured strategic advances against al-Qaeda in the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa following the deployment on the ground of some 1600 troops.
On the third day of Yemen’s largest ground attack ever staged against Islamic radicals, officials said at least seven al-Qaeda militants were killed, among which a local terror chief, an Uzbeck national identified as Abu Muslim al-Uzbeki.For now the military seems to have solely concentrated its efforts in Abyan’s mountainous al-Mahfad area which overlooks Shabwa, where terror militants have managed to erect several training camps and cluster cells.
The troops,backed by air force planes, launched a major offensive against al Qaeda strongholds in the south of the country on Tuesday. A local official said at least five Yemeni government soldiers were killed in the fighting, in which hundreds of volunteers from a local militia known as the Popular Committees are taking part.
Militants from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and its allies in the local Ansar al-Sharia group fled to the mountainous area in 2012 after Yemen's army, backed by the United States, drove them out of cities they had seized in 2011. Since then they have carried out dozens of bombings, suicide attacks and commando-style raids against military installations, government facilities and foreign nationals, killing hundreds of people.
Local residents said on Monday the army had been massing troops near the town of al-Mahfad in preparation for a major offensive.The operation appears to have come as a follow up on a series of air raids on April 19 and 20, which Yemen said killed some 65 suspected militants, including 55 in southern regions and 10 in the central province of al-Bayda. The Defence Ministry said those air strikes targeted "terrorist elements (who) were planning to target vital civilian and military installations". On Tuesday, Yemeni president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi said 70 percent of al Qaeda fighters were foreigners.