Aden // Yemeni forces backed by UAE troops and air strikes regained control of Aden’s Al Mansoura district on Sunday after heavy overnight clashes with suspected Al Qaeda militants.
At least 15 militants and two policeman were killed in the fighting, which broke out on Saturday afternoon when masked gunmen carrying the Al Qaeda flag attacked a police checkpoint in Al Mansoura. There were no civilian casualties.
“The Emirates’ warplanes supported the ground forces, who then advanced and took over the areas around the checkpoint after the extremists fled,” said Abdulkader Al Amoudi, an aide to Yemen’s defence minister.
The UAE forces are in Yemen as part of a Saudi-led coalition supporting the internationally-recognised government against Houthi rebels who seized large areas of the country after overruning the capital in September 2014. Loyalist fighters and coalition troops in July liberated Aden from the rebels, who are backed by forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
However, the southern port city has recently witnessed an increasing number of attacks by suspected Al Qaeda and ISIL militants, including the assassinations of a number of high-ranking government and security officials.
Mr Al Amoudi said the government launched the second stage of an operation to clear Aden of militants on Saturday night.
"Forces from the army, the security police and the coalition, especially the Emirati forces in Aden, are taking part," he told The National.
The forces would strike at extremist groups in their strongholds, Mr Al Amoudi said.
“The aim of the second stage is to clear [the militants from] all areas of Aden and build [up] a security force around the province.”
Prime minister Khaled Bahah said on Saturday that Yemeni forces would target all fighters who are not from the army during the second stage of the government’s security plan but declined to provide details. His comments were made before the fighting broke out in Al Mansoura.
Residents of the district and surrounding areas said the fiercest fighting took place around midnight, with the constant sound of machine gun fire and regular explosions from air strikes filling the air as fighter jets and helicopters swooped low overhead.
Residents fled the area but returned to their homes the next morning.
People were terrified as the fighting raged around them, said Mandeesh Al Salafi, a contractor living in Al Mansoura.
"We will be patient even if we are scared by the clashes, but our hope is that the army and security forces purge armed groups from the district," he told The National.
Meanwhile, resistance fighters in Taez city began handing over control of government buildings recaptured from the Houthis to the army and security forces on Sunday.
“The Popular Resistance delivered the 35 Brigade camp and Taez University to the army and security forces, as they will be responsible for public institutions,” said Tafeeq Al Adimi, a resistance leader in Taez city.
On Saturday, loyalist forces broke a months-long rebel seige of the city, the capital of Taez province, allowing desperately needed food, medicines and other essentials to be brought in from Aden. Among the items arriving on Sunday were oxygen cylinders for hospitals.
Mr Al Adimi said the resistance plans to continue fighting to liberate eastern areas of the city near the presidential palace, which are still held by the Houthis and Saleh loyalists.