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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

UAE-backed fighters in Yemen seize large Al Qaeda base

UK announces new aid package to help Yemenis in need

Pro-government forces flash victory signs in Abyan, April 2016. AFP.
Pro-government forces flash victory signs in Abyan, April 2016. AFP.

The UAE-backed Security Belt Forces have taken control of a large Al Qaeda training base and staging post in Yemen’s Abyan governorate, an official has told The National.

“Troops from our forces backed by Arab coalition Apache [helicopters] stormed the key outpost of Al Qaeda in the Aumaran valley in Moudiya, eastern Abyan, following fierce confrontations with the extremists, who have been using the rugged terrain as a base for training and as a depot to hide their weapons," the official said.

Storming the Al Qaeda stronghold “came after fierce clashes with the extremists”, who had taken up positions in well-fortified trenches in the surrounding hills, he added.

The same official said the Security Belt Forces were supported by air strikes carried out by the coalition, which killed “dozens” of Al Qaeda fighters and destroyed a number of weapon caches.

A senior commander taking part in the battle survived a Saturday morning rocket attack by Al Qaeda that targeted his vehicle, although two of his soldiers were injured.

The military campaign to remove Al Qaeda from Aumaran valley was launched on Friday night. The terror group are said to have used the area as a training base and to hide its fighters. It is geographically linked to the governorates of Bayda and Shabwa, where Al Qaeda previously had a province.

Abyan, in Yemen’s south, has gained a reputation as a stronghold for Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula. The extremists threatened to take full control in 2011 but were pushed back by Yemeni government fighters.

The Security Belt Forces have driven Al Qaeda fighters out of Hadramawt, large patches of Shabwa and about 90 per cent of Abyan.

Meanwhile on Sunday clashes erupted south of Hodeidah between the Houthis and fighters affiliated with the Resistance of Tehama, Colonel Mamoon Al Mahjami, a spokesman for Giant Brigades told The National.

The Houthis used mortars to attack Al Duraihimi, an area controlled by the Resistence of Tehama affiliated fighters, who retaliated, killing two Houthi fighters.

Col. Al Mahjami said the Houthi group still holds ground inside Hodeidah, including the ports. This, he added, violates the ceasefire agreement the warring parties signed in Sweden in December. It was "ink on paper for the Houthis," said Col. Al Mahjami. “The Houthis will keep playing their dirty game as usual."

“Our reliable sources inside the city confirmed that the Houthis transferred dozens of their fighters last week from Al Mahweet province as well as Raimah province in northern Yemen and stationed them inside mosques inside the city,” Col Al Mahjami said.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths on Tuesday told the Security Council there would be a withdrawal this week of all forces from the ports and “critical parts of the city associated with humanitarian facilities”.

The imminent evacuation of military personnel and militia fighters from the war-scarred city is set to coincide with the announcement on Sunday by the UK to step up humanitarian support in Yemen.

A press release issued by the British Department for International Development (DFID) said new aid worth £200 million (Dh958 ml) in food, water and sanitation would reach millions in need, bringing the total that the UK has committed to £770 million.

“Yemen is suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Millions of people edge ever closer to famine every day that the conflict continues. Today’s UK aid package will feed millions of Yemenis who face constant uncertainty over when they will next eat," said Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt.

“But aid is not enough. We are also doing all we can to support the UN-led peace process. The only way to end this crisis and the suffering of the Yemeni people is for both parties to agree a political settlement.”

Updated: February 24, 2019 06:17 PM

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