Yemen's Mukalla airport opens following recapture from al-Qaeda

Yemen's Mukalla airport opens following recapture from al-Qaeda
A plane carrying medical aid landed in Yemen's Mukalla city, which was recaptured from AQAP last month. Meanwhile, the UN envoy urges Yemen's warring parties to save the peace talks.
2 min read
09 May, 2016
The coastal city of Mukalla was recaptured from al-Qaeda militants two weeks ago [AFP]

Yemen's Mukalla airport reopened on Sunday following the recapture of the coastal city from al-Qaeda militants by government forces and their Gulf allies two weeks ago.

The airport received its first flight after an aircraft carrying 20 tonnes of medical supplies landed there from the UAE.

"The plane chartered by the Emirates Red Crescent is the first to land at Mukalla airport since it closed more than a year ago, after al-Qaeda entered the city," airport director Anis Abdel Kader said.

With UAE's help, attempts are underway to make the airport operational again so that it can be "used as quickly as possible for commercial flights," Abdel Kader added.

Special Forces from the UAE played an important role in recapturing the city.

A "very small number" of American soldiers had also been involved in the operation, the US announced on Friday, acknowledging for the first time that US troops were deployed in Yemen.

Exploiting the chaos of a civil war between government loyalists and Houthi rebels, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] took over the coastal city last year, imposing strict Islamic rule on Mukalla, the capital of the vast desert province of Hadramawt.

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AQAP earned an estimated $2 million a day in revenue from port taxes and fuel smuggling in Mukalla, a city of about 500,000.

Meanwhile, UN-led face-to-face talks between Yemen's warring factions broke off in Kuwait last week, with the government delegation complaining over the lack of progress and the Houthi rebels protesting over continued airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition.

The UN special envoy urged all parties to make concessions and save the peace talks.

Both sides need to "make concessions in order to strike a comprehensive peaceful solution," Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said on Monday.

"The participants in the Kuwait negotiations must reflect the aspirations of the Yemeni people. I am confident that Yemenis want an end to the conflict," he said in a statement.

All meetings scheduled for Sunday were called off, but the UN envoy said new talks are scheduled for Monday and appealed for cooperation.

There has been mounting international pressure to end the Yemen conflict that the UN estimates has killed more than 6,400 people and displaced 2.8 million since March last year.

Agencies contributed to this report