Yemeni forces drive Al Qaeda from key areas of Aden

Soldiers and police fanned out across Al Mansoura district, retaking the central prison, other public institutions and the main market which had been held by the militants for months.

Loyalist forces stand guard on a main road in Al Mansoura district after pushing Al Qaeda out of parts of the southern city on March 30, 2016. Saleh Al Obeidi/AFP
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Aden // Yemeni forces on Wednesday drove Al Qaeda fighters from key areas of Aden where extremists have launched a series of attacks against government and security officials.

In Al Mansoura district, soldiers and police retook the central prison, other public institutions and the main market which had been held by the militants for months.

Government forces fought gun battles with the militants for three hours before securing key roads running through the district.

The operation was seen as an important step in increasing security in Yemen’s temporary capital where the internationally-recognised government has been based since Iran-backed Houthi rebels were driven from the city in July last year.

But as Yemeni forces, backed by UAE troops from an Arab coalition, drove the rebels from much of southern Yemen, extremist groups tried to take advantage, increasing their presence in certain areas.

Militants from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and groups affiliated to ISIL have carried out a series of assassinations and car bombings in the Aden hampering efforts to install President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi’s government in the city.

“Al Mansoura district is now completely under the control of the army and police forces,” said Brigadier Shalal Shae, director of Aden’s police.

He said the operation was part of a larger plane prepared by the security forces with the cooperation of the Saudi-led coalition.

“We are working hard to keep the security in the capital Aden,” he added.

After the fighting, dozens of troops set up checkpoints at key roundabouts and streets in Al Mansoura and took up positions in the district’s tallest buildings. It was the heaviest presence in the area for government troops since Aden was recaptured.

Commander of the security campaign Moneer Al Yafei said the next objective was to secure the whole of Aden province, and the neighbouring province of Lahj, and ban people from carrying weapons in the city.

“Usually the AQAP fighters flee from Aden to Lahj province, so we are going to liberate Lahj from the extremist fighters after we secure Aden completely,” he said.

The operation came after the coalition has carried out a series of air strikes against Al Qaeda in recent days in cities it has seized including the Hadramawt provincial capital Mukalla and Abyan provincial capital Zinjibar.

Five militants were killed and three wounded in Monday strikes on Mukalla, a major port city that the extremists seized last April, provincial officials said.

The coalition raids follow a US strike against an Al Qaeda training camp outside Mukalla last week that killed 71 militants.

There has been no let-up in the long-standing US air war against Al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based branch, which it regards as the network’s most dangerous.

Meanwhile, there are hopes the conflict between the Houthi rebels and pro-government forces could soon come to an end.

The UN said last week the warring parties had agreed to a cessation of hostilities from April 10 and peace talks from April 18.

The war started after the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa and drove the government into exile. More than 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict.


With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse