Call for more cooperation as US reveals strikes on Al Qaeda and ISIL in Yemen

Military spokesman says coordination with local forces is essential to ensure defeat of extremists

Yemeni tribesmen from the Popular Resistance Committees, loyal to the Saudi-backed Saudi president, stop cars at a makeshift security checkpoint along a desert road in the Beihan district in Shabwa province on December 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULLAH AL-QADRY

The US military's Central Command revealed that it carried out more than 100 strikes against Al Qaeda and ISIL in Yemen this year, prompting calls from Yemenis for more coordination to defeat the extremists.

The Central Command (Centcom) said US forces had carried out "multiple ground operations and more than 120 air strikes" to disrupt the ability of the two groups to use Yemen as "a hub for terrorist recruiting, training, and base of operations to export terror worldwide".

The Centcom report released on Wednesday said intelligence estimates suggested that ISIL had doubled in size in Yemen over the past year, while the Yemen-based branch of Al Qaeda, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap), was one of the terrorist groups most committed to and capable of conducting attacks in America.

Spokesman Lt Col Earl Brown said US forces expanded counterterrorism operations in October to encompass both Aqap and ISIL to prevent ISIL from "filling the vacuum left by a diminished Aqap footprint or influence in the region".

Both Aqap and ISIL have used the turmoil caused by Yemen's civil war to expand their influence in the country. The Saudi-led military coalition supporting the government against Iran-backed Houthi rebels has also assisted the Yemeni army and allied forces in driving the extremist groups out of areas they had seized.

Lieutenant Mohammed Al Nakeeb, spokesman for the Yemen army's fourth military zone in the south, said that although the US strikes had killed top leaders of Aqap, they are not enough because the militants "are becoming more alert to the American raids".

"The battle against Al Qaeda and ISIL requires mutual collaboration and a real partnership with the Yemeni authorities. It also requires highly trained military forces, similar to the forces of the Security Belt backed by the UAE, to keep chasing those extremists and prevent them from returning to the strongholds they lost," Lt Al Nakeeb told The National.

Meanwhile, government forces backed by the coalition made further gains against the Houthis in northern Yemen on Thursday, capturing rebel positions in the Al Karda'ah and Al Frasi mountains, according to Tariq Razaz, a journalist covering the campaign in Jawf province.

Razaz said government forces had also surrounded the strategic Al Agasher mountain in the Al Yatama area of jawf.

In southern Yemen, a rebel commander close to Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al Houthi was captured on the Hamak front, between Ibb and Al Dhale provinces.

Hussein Al Houthi was captured along with three aides,  a Yemeni military source told the Saudi Press Agency.


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