Militants of the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch on Monday controlled a southern Yemeni town (Azzan) without armed confrontations, a military official told Xinhua.
The military official, based in southeastern Shabwa province, said that scores of gunmen of the al-Qaida terrorist group took full control over Azzan and deployed around the town’s main entrances.
Local residents said that “many checkpoints were established in Azzan and al-Qaida members distributed leaflets asking people to abide by Islamic teachings.”
Many mid-level commanders of the al-Qaida group were moved to Azzan and took government buildings there, according to the residents.
Last December, hundreds of gunmen of the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) seized two strategic towns in neighboring southern Abyan province, about 45 km from Aden, Yemen’s temporary capital.
The AQAP, also known locally as Ansar al-Sharia, emerged in January 2009. It had claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on Yemen’s army and government institutions.
It took advantage of the current civil war to expand its influence in Yemen’s southern regions.
Security in Yemen has deteriorated since March, when war broke out between the Houthi militants, supported by former President Ali Abdullash Saleh, and the government backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in ground battles and airstrikes since then, half of them civilians.