Govt forces push back al Qaeda in Yemen

  • AFP, Aden
  • Updated: Mar 30, 2016 16:42 IST
A fighter loyal to Yemen's exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi checks his mobile as he stands guard at a military site near the country's third-largest city Taez. (AFP Photo)

Loyalist forces pushed al Qaeda out of parts of Aden on Wednesday in a new drive against the jihadists in Yemen’s second city, where the internationally recognised government is based, military sources said.

Troops and militia retook the central prison and deployed on main roads across the Mansura residential district after a three-hour gun battle with the jihadists, the sources said.

There was no immediate word on casualties.

The Sunni extremists of al Qaeda have exploited conflict between the government and Shia rebels who overran the capital Sanaa in September 2014 to expand their control in the south.

A Saudi-led coalition, which intervened in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi when he fled into exile in March last year, concentrated its firepower on pushing the rebels and their allies out of Aden and neighbouring southern provinces, and the jihadists took advantage.

But in recent days, the coalition has carried out a series of air strikes against al Qaeda in cities it has seized including Hadramawt provincial capital Mukalla and Abyan provincial capital Zinjibar.

Five militants were killed and three wounded in Monday’s strikes on Mukalla, a major port city that the jihadists seized last April, provincial officials told AFP.

Zinjibar residents told AFP that al Qaeda fighters were evacuating public buildings in the city on Tuesday in apparent fear of new strikes.

The coalition raids follow a US strike against an al Qaeda training camp outside Mukalla last week that killed 71 militants, according to provincial officials.

On Tuesday, hundreds of people took part in an al Qaeda-organised protest in Mukalla against the US raid, witnesses said.

“US raids will not defeat jihad,” banners carried by the demonstrators said.

But other residents resisted the jihadists’ efforts to get them to join the protest, the witnesses said.

There has been no let-up in the longstanding US air war against al Qaeda’s Yemen-based branch, which it regards as the jihadist network’s most dangerous.

US strikes have taken out a number of senior al Qaeda commanders in Yemen over the past year.

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