Leaders of a Saudi-led coalition that supports the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi said Monday that more than 800 Al-Qaeda "elements" had been killed in army operations carried out in southern Yemen.
"A joint military operation was carried out against al-Qaeda on Sunday, with the participation of the Yemeni army and elements of the Saudi and UAE [United Arab Emirates] Special Forces," the coalition said in a Monday statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
Sunday's operation, the statement added, came within the context of "joint international efforts aimed at defeating [extremist] groups in Yemen and helping Yemen's legitimate government reestablish control over cities that have fallen to al-Qaeda".
The statement went on to note that the "most important" city to have fallen under the militant group's influence was that of Al-Mukalla (capital of Yemen's coastal Hadhramaut province), which for the last year has been considered an "al-Qaeda stronghold".
According to the coalition, the wide-ranging campaign to support the Hadi-led government will serve to "aid humanitarian relief efforts in these cities and alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people".
It further asserted that the states participating in the coalition would "continue to pursue [extremist] groups in all the cities of Yemen with a view to denying them safe haven until the region's security and stability are restored".
One local Yemeni official, who insisted on anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media, said in earlier statements to Anadolu Agency that the Yemeni army -- backed by air cover provided by the Saudi-led coalition -- had managed on Sunday evening "to secure all districts of Al-Mukalla and rout the al-Qaeda fighters who have held the city for the past year".
According to the same source, the Yemeni army, supported by local residents, "has drawn up committees tasked with protecting public property and government buildings in anticipation of acts of sabotage by [al-Qaeda] sleeper cells".
Al-Qaeda militants captured al-Mukalla in April of last year, leading to the withdrawal of the Yemeni security forces from the area.
Since then, al-Qaeda has managed the city's affairs and has remained in control of its strategic installations, including its seaport, presidential palace, military barracks and security headquarters.
The group has also been managing the city's civil institutions, including those responsible for public health, education and electricity distribution.
Hadhramaut represents Yemen's largest province, accounting for roughly one-third of the country's total territory.
It is divided administratively and militarily into two regions: the Hadhramaut coast, which has been controlled by al-Qaeda for the past year, and the province's valley and desert regions, which have remained under the control of the Yemeni army.
As Saudi-led, pro-Hadi forces battle al-Qaeda in Yemen's east and south, the country's northern provinces are witnessing a fragile truce between government forces and the Shia Houthi militant group as peace talks now being held in Kuwait entered their fifth day on Monday without any breakthroughs.
In recent months, al-Qaeda has exploited the ongoing conflict to bolster its influence in southern Yemen.
By Ahmad al-Masri
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