Al-Qaeda seizes army base in southeast Yemen

Al-Qaeda seizes army base in southeast Yemen
Militants take major base in the Yemen city of Mukalla, as Saudi-led air raids drive Houthi rebels out of the presidential palace in Aden.
2 min read
03 April, 2015
Yemen has sunk further into chaos since the start of a Saudi-led campaign [Anadolu]

Al-Qaeda militants have seized an army base in the southeastern city of Mukalla, which is now almost entirely under the group's control, a Yemen military official said.

Residents were seen fleeing the city in panic on Friday.

Al-Qaeda "took the headquarters of the 2nd Military Region in the afternoon without resistance", the official said, a day after the extremists stormed a prison in the city and freed hundreds of inmates.

The regional commander and his troops withdrew to military camps around the airport, one of the few areas in the city not yet under the control of al-Qaeda, the official said.

The militants captured a tank and two armoured vehicles. Earlier they also took the city's port.

Members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) also paraded their black banner through the city of more than 200,000 people, witnesses said.

The militants launched calls from mosques in the city for "jihad against Shias", according to residents.

Rebel setback

In Aden, forces aligned with the Houthi movement withdrew under bombardment from a palace that had been used as President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi's residence, a senior official said.

The Houthis captured the hilltop complex a day earlier in a symbolic blow to Hadi, who has fled to Saudi Arabia.

"The Houthi militia and their allies withdrew before dawn from the Al-Maashiq palace," said the official in Aden.

The rebel forces retreated to the nearby central district of Khor Maksar, where 12 rebels were reported dead in an overnight attack by pro-Hadi militiamen.

The coalition air dropped rifles, ammunition and communications equipment to supporters of the president in Aden battling to prevent its fall, according to a local official.

Escalating violence

Yemen has sunk further into chaos since the Saudi-led coalition launched its airstrikes on 26 March.

UN aid chief Valerie Amos said Thursday that 519 people had been killed and nearly 1,700 wounded in two weeks of fighting, adding she was "extremely concerned" for the safety of trapped civilians.

Observers have also warned that AQAP, which Washington considers the network's deadliest franchise, could exploit the unrest to expand its foothold in Yemen.

Before the latest chaos erupted, Yemen had been a key US ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, allowing Washington to carry out drone attacks on its territory.