By: Abdurrahman Shamlan
This past Tuesday, the Yemeni army – assisted by tribal militias – managed to storm and retake control of the two biggest towns in the southern war-torn governorate of Abyan. The governorate had been seized by Al-Qaeda-linked militants in May 2011.
Army forces and armed tribesmen launched an offensive in the early hours of Tuesday morning against militants in Zinjubar, the provincial capital of Abyan, and Ja’ar, Al-Qaeda’s local stronghold, and forced the militants to flee from their posts.
This victory amounts to the biggest so far in the war waged against southern militancy. The army has stepped up military operations and offensives following President Hadi’s orders to eliminate terrorists in the country’s south.
Jubilant residents of Zinjubar and Ja’ar reportedly took to the streets to celebrate Al-Qaeda’s dislodgement from their towns, following more than a year of effective militant control.
On Friday, the Yemeni army and armed tribesmen also retook control of Shuqra – where battles took place following militant withdrawals from Zinjubar and Ja’a’a – and dislodged a number of Al-Qaeda-affiliates.
With the fall of this third strategic port town, the Yemeni army is now in full control of Abyan; but the war against terrorist is not yet concluded, as militants continue to hold key towns in the southeastern province of Shabwa.
Ansar Al-Sharia said in a press release that while its militants had in fact pulled out of Zinjubar and Ja’ar, they had withdrawn to spare further bloodshed and because they feared for the lives of civilians.
The group vowed to carry out attacks in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a and added that it would chase “US crusaders and agents” back to their palaces and cities.
Many analysts viewed the Al-Qaeda statement as an admission of defeat but continued to urge the government to take all necessary measures to avoid suicide attacks by terrorists.
In an effort to remove terrorists from all areas in Yemen, warplanes bombed Al-Qaeda hideouts in the southeastern province of Shabwa, killing dozens and wounding many more.
Al-Qaeda denied the news and said no militants had even been injured in the airstrikes. However, citizens from Shabwa stated that many militants were killed when airstrikes targeted a building which had been used by them as an explosives laboratory.
The Yemeni army gained considerable momentum after recently being hit hard by militants, who had stormed a number of military outposts, killed hundreds of soldiers, wounded scores more, and claimed large amounts of heavy weaponry.
Last month, a suicide bomber linked to Al-Qaeda blew himself up in the midst of a group of soldiers who had been rehearsing for a military parade. The suicide attack left more than 100 soldiers dead.
Yemeni people’s reaction
Yemeni citizens have rejoiced at the news as the terror network had been a source of worry and concern for all.
Mohammed Al-Salhi told the National Yemen that Al-Qaeda’s threats to move the war to the capital indicated that the militants had lost their ability to attack and had nothing left but empty threats.
However, he called on government forces to remain vigilant and to remain on standby in order to foil any potential attacks, as the terror network would spare no efforts to recoup its great losses.
Asama al-Nihmi said, “We are really happy that the government reestablished control over Abyan province and drove the militants from it. We hope that the armed forces keep their offensive up until they have completely eliminated them.”
Al-Nihmi suspects that foreign powers are giving support to militant groups in Yemen in order to wreak havoc and disrupt stability.
For his part,soldier Daif Alla Gailan said, “I’m extremely glad that the Yemeni army finally defeated the militants and dislodged them from Abyan. Al-Qaeda militants are more dangerous than the Jews, as the crimes they have committed against innocent people are really heinous; therefore, I urge the soldiers to deal with them decisively.”
Susan Al-Qadasi, an accountant, said she was happy that government forces had regained control over Abyan province.
“This victory is really important because now the government will be able to blame Al-Qaeda for its own failures. I hope the government keeps up the momentum and drives Al-Qaeda from Shabwa also… so the Yemeni people can heave a final sigh of relief.”