Yemen: Army free southern towns held by al Qaeda fighters
The Yemeni army declared its first victory in its offensive against al Qaeda gunmen in the south. "Following the escalation of fighting with the army," members of Al Qaeda have preferred to leave the city of Jaar, reported a witness. On Tuesday, the military has managed to regain control of the town located in Abyan province (southwest). The city was controlled for over a year by the militants.
The Yemeni army tanks began entering early Tuesday into the center of the city. Before leaving the city, members of Al Qaeda have distributed leaflets in the city. They apologized for the destruction caused in the clashes.
"The heroes of the armed forces and the Popular Resistance Committees took full control of Jaar," announced the commander of the southern region, General Ali Salem Qoton, in a statement released by the Ministry of Defence website, 26sep.net. Hundreds of residents of Jaar took to the streets to celebrate the arrival of the army, firing their guns into the air, witnesses said.
On Monday, fighting between Al Qaeda and the Yemeni army in the south left 26 dead among the militants. Additionally, two soldiers were killed and 17 others wounded in Jaar and near a hill overlooking the town of Shaqra.
The army has been making effort to regain control on two other key towns. "The army is now in the center of Zinjibar", the main town of the province of Abyan, "and faces resistance" from Al Qaeda fighters, a military source conveyed. Moreover, according to witnesses, vehicles carrying fighters, weapons and equipment were also heading towards Shaqra.
The Yemeni army offensive, launched on May 12, is concentrated in the towns of Jaar, Zinjibar and Shaqra , (south) in the province of Abyan, which fell into the hands of Al Qaeda.
According to military sources, four soldiers and 26 members of Al Qaeda were killed in the latest fighting, bringing to 509 the death toll of the fighting since the beginning of the army offensive on 12 May.