Yemen government troops have liberated President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s home village and other neighbouring regions in the province of Abyan from al-Qaeda and are inching towards declaring the entire province free of the militants, residents and army officials said on Tuesday.
On Monday afternoon, the forces backed by local tribesmen stormed the village of al-Wadhea and other small villages in the southern province forcing al-Qaeda to flee into the town al-Mahfad, their last stronghold in Abyan.
“The army troops and the resistance have seized Wadhea and stationed inside its government facilities,” Ali Saleh, a member of the allied Southern Resistance, told Gulf News on Tuesday.
Backed by heavy aerial bombardment from the Saudi-led coalition, government forces launched last week a massive military operation aimed at clearing Abyan of al-Qaeda and Daesh-linked groups who have long exploited power vacuum to overrun large swathes of land since 2011. The troops, mainly trained and armed by the UAE officers in port city of Aden, have stormed Zinjbar, Kawd, Jaar, Moudeah, Shoqra and other smaller areas.
The militants who suffered loses from the heavy air strikes reportedly took refugee in the province’s rugged mountains or fled to Houthi-controlled Baydha province.
Saleh said that army troops and the resistance are gathering in the liberated areas for another assault on al-Mahfad, predicting that the militant group would not show any resistance. “They have lost many of their fighters in the air strikes or in previous battles. Only low-ranking or misled militants have lived in al-Mahfad.”
Local army commanders say by announcing liberation of Abyan and the neighbouring Shabwa provinces from the militants, the once unruly south Yemen would be under the full control of the army forces and security services.
Al-Qaeda’s quick expansion began in August last year shortly after the coalition-backed forces pushed Houthis and the ousted president’s forces from the south. Thousands of local fighters who could not fight off the well-organised militants joined UAE-sponsored military camps in Aden and Eritrea. In April, the militants lost control of the city of al-Mukalla, the capital of Hadramout, and Huta, the capital of Lahj.
Meanwhile, Houthis have failed to regain control of new territories in Yemen’s third largest city, Taiz, days after government forces broke the rebels’ yearlong siege, residents and army commanders said. Resistance fighters and army soldiers on Tuesday pushed back Houthi attacks on the strategic Han mountain and al-Sayahi area in the western side of the city. Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition have helped the government forces take control of new areas in recent weeks.
By Saeed al-Batari
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