ADEN: Yemeni government forces waging an offensive against Al Qaeda pushed into a militant stronghold in the south after insurgents blew up a government building there with some then withdrawing, the Defence Ministry said yesterday.
Since 2012, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s main Yemen base has been in the mountainous Al Mahfad area of Abyan province where militants had fled after the army, with US help, drove them from towns they seized during a chaotic national uprising in 2011.
The Defence Ministry’s website quoted an official military source as saying soldiers and allied tribal militias known as popular committees had crossed into Al Mahfad. “The source said Al Qaeda elements blew up the government building in Al Mahfad,” the ministry cited the source as saying, and some militants had fled the area afterwards.
The Yemeni army is waging a concerted offensive against insurgents in some of the most impenetrable regions of the Arabian Peninsula state. The offensive follows a series of air strikes, including by U.S. drones, against insurgent bastions that killed some 65 fighters. Last week a Yemeni official and tribal source confirmed the killing of the head of the AQAP cell in Al Mahfad.
Meanwhile, Yemeni troops killed two suspected militants when they shelled the house of a local Al Qaeda chief in the southern Shabwa province, a military official said. The overnight artillery strike hit near Al Saeed, one of several towns in Shabwa targeted in an ongoing government offensive against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It resulted in “the death of Nasser and Ahmed bin Atef, brothers of local Al-Qaeda chief (Saad bin Atef), both of whom are active members in the network,” the official said. The official did not say whether Saad was present at the time of the shelling.