Al-Qaeda withdraws from two Yemeni cities
The militants are expected to completely withdraw from Zinjibar and the nearby city of Jaar within the next week but have warned any attacks would halt the operation.
As part of the deal, weapons are expected to be left behind as the militants pull back towards the mountainous region which separates Abyan from the provinces of Shabwa and Baida, tribal sources said.
"Hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters have begun to hand over to provincial authorities public buildings which they controlled," a tribal mediator told AFP.
Pressure from locals who wanted to spare their cities and homes from destruction forced tribal leaders to mediate and arrive at an appropriate resolution, a tribal elder suggested.
The departure comes just days after a similar withdrawal freed the port city of Mukalla of al-Qaeda militants more than a year after they seized control.
Pro-government forces, backed by the Arab coalition involved in the conflict, launched a major operation to liberate southern provinces from al-Qaeda last month.
The fighters ascended upon Mukalla on April 24, forcing militants to withdraw from the city.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – Yemen's branch of the group – allegedly withdrew from the city to save it from destruction and bloodshed, debunking claims by the Saudi-led coalition suggesting a fierce battle killed 800 militants.