Al Qaeda commanders killed in clashes with UAE-backed forces in Yemen

Security Belt Forces launch operation in Abyan province against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

Yemeni soldiers loyal to the Saudi-backed government stand on guard at the port of Aden on December 12, 2018, during a ceremony handing over cranes from Saudi Arabia.  / AFP / Saleh Al-OBEIDI
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Two Al Qaeda commanders were reportedly killed in clashes with UAE-backed forces in southern Yemen on Tuesday.

Local Security Belt Forces in Abyan province recently launched a military operation targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Fighting on Tuesday took place in Moudiya district, a military source involved in the fighting told The National.

“The campaign is called Crushing Revenge,” the source said, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to brief the media. “We’re tracking down terrorist elements belonging to Al Qaeda.”

He continued: "Our forces carried out a big military operation in a mountainous area in Al Fathan in Moudiya, which led to the killing of Abu Al Darda Al Baydhani and Abu Qusai Al Adeni,” who were believed to be commanders leading dozens of militants, he added.

Despite ongoing military operations by Security Belt Forces in the province, AQAP militants continue to hold pockets of territory in northwest Moudiya district, the source said.

The Security Belt Forces is a militia supported by the United Arab Emirates that operates across Aden, Lahij and Abyan provinces in south Yemen. The militia claims to have 10,000 fighters under its command.


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"We inflicted a fatal blow to AQAP in Moudiya and other districts in the province of Abyan in the previous operation, but earlier this month, this hidden cell of AQAP broke into the Al Fathan area coming from the neighbouring province of Al Baydha,” he said.

"After receiving information about the existence of a terrorist cell, we launched an operation to secure the area, but the area was too tough,” he said. “The terrorist group had a hideout in a valley surrounded by rugged mountains, which made it very difficult to approach them, the road was very rough and accessible to armoured vehicles.”

The Security Belt Forces receive arms and equipment – including armoured vehicles – from the UAE.

“The terrorist elements mortared us from hilltop positions so we decided not to storm the valley,” he said. “We imposed a siege around them for three days and kept shelling the area using artillery until we had control of the area."

The military operation comes three weeks after the assassination in Aden of Colonel Fahed Gharama, who commanded Security Belt Forces in Lawder district in Abyan province.