Saudi-backed troops attack al-Qaeda strongholds in southern Yemen

Saudi-backed troops attack al-Qaeda strongholds in southern Yemen
Yemeni government troops backed by Saudi-led Arab airstrikes are battling al-Qaeda in the south to recapture ground lost to the jihadist group over the past year
2 min read
24 April, 2016
A general view shows the southeastern Yemen city of Mukalla, on April 29, 2014 [AFP]
Yemeni government forces backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition pressed their attack on al-Qaeda-held town of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province, in parallel with airstrikes on the jihadist group in Mukalla, as peace talks continued for a fourth day in Kuwait between government and Houthi rebels.

Government troops consolidated their gains in Zinjibar on Sunday, local sources told The New Arab, amid reports al-Qaeda militants were withdrawing in the direction of Jaar, the second largest city in Abyan.

This comes a day after Yemeni troops launched an offensive to recapture the city, 50 km to the east of Aden.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes on the al-Qaeda-held port of Mukalla in southern Yemen on Sunday, killing at least ten militants, medical sources and residents told AP, part of an offensive to recapture the city.

Mukalla, a shipping hub and provincial capital, is a stronghold of the powerful al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) which has taken advantage of Yemen's year-long civil war to win control over parts of the south and east.

Mukalla, a shipping hub and provincial capital, is a stronghold of the powerful al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Residents said airstrikes hit a building that AQAP was using as its headquarters, as well as gatherings of the group elsewhere in Mukalla.

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A Yemeni military source said the airstrikes were being coordinated with troops on the ground. In recent days, residents and local officials have reported preparations for a pro-government ground offensive on Mukalla.

It comes as Yemen's government meets with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Kuwait to try to find a solution to a conflict which has killed more than 6,200 people and divided up control of the country.

Saudi Arabia and its mostly Arab coalition has carried out airstrikes in Yemen for the past year to support the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the Houthis.

Although the main war is being fought between the Houthis and the Yemeni government backed by coalition air strikes, the military and local fighters have also been battling AQAP, which is also subject to US drone strikes.

On Saturday, an airstrike from a drone killed two suspected al-Qaeda fighters south of the city of Marib.

The Houthis control the capital Sanaa while the Saudi-backed administration of Hadi has tried to re-establish itself in the southern port city of Aden.