In Zinjibar and Ja’ar, two cities in the Southern Abyan governorate, residents reported a massive buildup in security forces during the last three days.
Witnesses described the military as heavily deployed in the streets, and on the roads leading in and out of the two towns.
The renewed armed presence is likely being deployed as reinforcements to the beleaguered and short-staffed local forces in anticipation of a campaign to pursue and arrest militants believed to be based in the area, sources told the National Yemen newspaper.
The area had witnessed repeated attacks against army checkpoints and several assassinations of army personnel in the weeks following the Gulf 20 Football Tournament, which took place partly in Abyan as well as in neighboring Aden.
Operations which have targeted and killed some soldiers in the entrances of the two cities and in their main thoroughfares had recurred suddenly, after a month-long lull which coincided with the hosting of the championship.
Security forces have regularly sought out those believed to belong to al-Qaeda from among the cities and villages in the governorate, especially Kafar and Zinjibar directorates – the scenes of the most frequent attacks recently.
The victims of the last incident were seven soldiers from the Political Security bureau and in a separate attack, three civilians were killed on the road between Ja’ar and al-Hessen last Monday.
Also, an assassination attempt was allegedly made on Deputy Abyan Governor Ahmed Ghaled al-Rahawi earlier this week, according to News Yemen. This follows a similar attempt on the official’s life in September – both instances he characterized as al-Qaeda attacks.
The spate of killings and government deployments has met with the general resentment of the area’s residents.
In addition, the province has witnessed renewed rioting, as well as increased banditry and killing after the conclusion of the Gulf 20 Tournament.
Many residents interviewed wondered why the security situation had again deteriorated so quickly after the football championship, and also why motorcycles have returned to the streets of Ja’ar and Zinjibar after they had been banned, after being used for a spate of attacks against government targets.