Yemeni military forces chase al-Qaeda from new areas in Abyan and Shabwa

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AL-MUKALLAH: Yemeni military and security forces have taken control of a wide swath of valleys and mountainous areas in the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, which have long been considered havens for militants in Al-Qaeda.

Media and local officials said military and security forces led by the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council stormed the arid and mountainous Khaber Al-Marakesha, a region of Abyan known for nearly 10 years as an Al-Qaeda hideout and home to some militants. , including Jalal Baliedi, a senior al-Qaeda operative killed by a US drone in the same area in 2016.

Other military forces, including the Giants Brigades and the Shabwa Defense Forces, are on the verge of completely pushing the al-Qaeda militants out of the Al-Musainah area and are now fighting their way into a valley long and hilly called Mouthab.

Residents told Arab News that the military forces met stiff resistance from al-Qaeda militants who planted landmines and booby traps to impede their advance through these rugged areas.

“Al-Qaeda militants outnumbered the attacking forces and could not stop their advances,” said a local journalist who preferred to remain anonymous, adding that the militants had fled to a chain steep mountains between Abyan, Shabwa and Al-Bayda.

Mohammed Al-Naqeeb, spokesman for pro-independence southern troops, told Arab News that their forces had taken control of three valleys in Abyan which house three military training facilities for al-Qaeda.

“We chased Al-Qaeda out of Al-Naseel, Moujan and Al-Sari. Al-Qaeda has a large military camp in Al-Sari,” he said.

“The terrorist elements have fled to the mountains and the military operation continues.”

Hundreds of troops were deployed in Lawder, Ahwar and other areas of Abyan province on Sunday to thwart any attempts by al-Qaeda militants to mount counterattacks.

Twenty soldiers and six militants were killed in an al-Qaeda attack on a southern forces military outpost in Ahwar, Abyan last week, the militants’ deadliest attack in months.

In the past, many military operations to drive terrorists out of these places have failed because militants wage fierce counterattacks based on their understanding of the local geology.

Military analysts now believe that because the military and security personnel fighting al-Qaeda terrorists are made up of locals who know the targeted areas intimately, they may be able to drive extremists out of their long-held strongholds. in the southern provinces.

Similar military and security forces, armed and trained by the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, succeeded in driving the militants out of major towns in 2016, including Al-Mukalla, the capital of the southeastern province of Hadramaut. , which has been invaded. by militants in April 2015, as well as the major cities of Abyan, Shabwa and Lahj.

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