Yemen: Al-Qaeda captures capital of Lahj for second time

Yemen: Al-Qaeda captures capital of Lahj for second time
Al-Qaeda in Yemen have captured the strategic city of al-Houta for a second time, as Yemen's PM returns to the port city of Aden to establish a permanent government presence.
2 min read
26 January, 2016
Al-Qaeda is also in control of neighbouring Abyan province's Zinjibar and Jaar districts [Getty]
Al-Qaeda's franchise in Yemen has captured Yemen's southern city of al-Houta, a day after the militant group blew up a vacant police station in the city, which was controlled by pro-government forces.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] fighters took back al-Houta, the capital of the southern Lahj province, on Monday, after storming the public institutions in the city.

"Al-Qaeda have taken full control of al-Houta. Security and government forces in Lahj province have broken-down because of escalating tensions over the past few days," a local source told The New Arab.

On Sunday, suspected al-Qaeda militants blew up a police station in al-Houta hours after a high ranking security official visited the location.

The militants have also taken over neighbouring Abyan province's Zinjibar and Jaar districts, about 50 kilometres east of Aden.

Al-Houta lies between Aden, the government's temporary capital, and the strategic al-Anad airbase.

      Bahah has returned to violence-plagued Aden [Getty]
In March 2015, al-Qaeda first took control of al-Houta following heavy clashes with security forces, pro-government troops then took the city back in August.

Al-Qaeda has exploited the turmoil to also tighten its grip on parts of southeast Yemen, seizing Mukalla, capital of Hadramawt province, in April last year.

Yemen's PM returns to Aden

The Yemeni prime minister and his Cabinet returned on Monday to the volatile southern port city of Aden, months after he was targeted in a suicide bombing that forced them to leave the country.

Khaled Bahah's return is aimed at establishing a permanent government presence in Aden, even as the country is torn apart by civil war.

"[The move] is part of a permanent return of all members of government to begin carrying out their duties and working towards the concerns and needs of the people," said Yemen's state news agency SABA.

"The government's current priorities are security and developing a plan to tighten control of Aden," an official told SABA.

On Sunday, unidentified gunmen killed a police officer and four others in Aden in a wave of attacks targeting security forces in the violence-plagued port city.

Assailants opened fire on a police vehicle carrying Colonel Taha al-Sobeihi in Aden's Mansura district, killing him along with a bodyguard and a female bystander.

Al-Qaeda and the rival Islamic State group both have a presence in the city, where jihadists occupy government buildings and are seen patrolling several districts and intimidating civilians.

They have claimed a string of attacks and assassinations in recent months.