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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Yemeni forces secure key Al Qaeda stronghold

Al Faisal Operation was successful in limiting Al Qaeda's presence in Yemen on Sunday as the army continues its campaign against key outposts

A Yemeni commander looks on as the troops hold a position during clashes with Houthi rebels and their allies in the Nihm district, on the eastern edges of the capital Sanaa, on January 30, 2018. Abdullah Al Qadry / AFP
A Yemeni commander looks on as the troops hold a position during clashes with Houthi rebels and their allies in the Nihm district, on the eastern edges of the capital Sanaa, on January 30, 2018. Abdullah Al Qadry / AFP

Dozens of Al Qaeda members were killed and many more captured in Yemen as the army looks to expel the terrorists from key outposts in the Hadramawt province.

This comes as part of a Saudi-led coalition campaign — which includes the UAE — looking to drive terrorists from eastern Yemen and areas considered Al Qaeda strongholds.

Gen Faraj Al Bahsani, the commander in charge of the campaign in Mukalla, announced on Sunday the Al Faisal Operation has been successful in driving out the militants from the province.

The operation, which was launched last Friday by special forces trained by the UAE, was successful in securing the key province, which shares an almost 600 kilometre border with Saudi Arabia and is home to several key coastal cities to the south.

Two soldiers were killed on Saturday in the offensive, which targets the Wadi Al Masini and Wadi Al Amad — both in the vast province of Hadramawt and home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The two valleys are critical to control over Yemen's southern coastline.

Read more: Arab coalition launches offensive to drive out Al Qaeda in Yemen

Col Saddam Abu Saleh, one of the operation commanders, told The National the army stormed the main Al Qaeda stronghold in the valleys through air strikes and a ground offensive.

"We still must deal with the western corridor in the area where the terrorists deployed a number of explosive cars and planted thousands of landmines to hinder our progress,” he said.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula largely withdrew from Mukalla in Hadramawt in 2016 when government and Emirati soldiers seized the city that had been used by the extremists to amass a fortune amid the chaos of civil war.

"Dozens of the terrorists were killed and dozens other arrested by our forces. Among those were Ethiopians and Yemenis who used to be soldiers in the Yemeni army as indicated by the identification we found on them," said Colonel Sadam.

AQAP militants were highly equipped with heavy weaponry such as anti-tank guided missiles and mortars, said Colonel Khaled Al Zubaidi, another commander involved in the operation.

Colonel Khaled Al Zubaidi told The National the coalition was able to target "enormous ammunition storehouses which were destroyed by the Arab Coalition jets air strikes".

Sky News Arabia said the coalition along with Yemeni forces killed 38 Al Qaeda members.

More than 9,200 people have been killed in the Yemen war since 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition joined the government's fight against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The United States, the only force known to operate armed drones over Yemen, has ramped up a long-running campaign against AQAP since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.

Mukalla was the most populated Yemeni city under direct Al Qaeda control from 2015 to 2016, when the army and its regional military allies seized control of the port city.