Yemen retakes ground in push on Qaeda rebels |
Saudi Gazette - 12 June, 2012
Troops recaptured some territory held by Al-Qaeda-linked militants and geared up for a push into their strongholds Monday, part of a US-backed drive in a country Washington sees as a front line in its war against Qaeda insurgents.
The Yemeni army is trying to retake towns in the southern province of Abyan that were seized by militants last year during a popular uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh who formally stepped down in February.
Washington, which helped engineer Saleh’s replacement by his deputy, is backing the offensive and has increased drone strikes on suspected Al-Qaeda members it believes may be plotting attacks from Yemen.
It has also sent dozens of military trainers and increased aid to Yemen where it wants President Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi to reunify the military and focus it against Al-Qaeda.
A Yemeni military official told Reuters Monday the army had taken control of a factory used as a base by militants, about 5 km from the center of their stronghold in the town of Jaar.
“We are getting ready to enter Jaar now, we are on the city’s outskirts,” the military official in the southern Abyan province said. Government troops had already driven militants out of small villages in the surrounding area, he added.
The army battled militants in overnight fighting that continued into Monday morning, killing at least 20 fighters and three soldiers, the official said.
Yemeni warplanes and helicopters struck areas held by insurgents, he said, adding that the number of casualties was not immediately known. The army is also gearing up to try to take the southern coastal town of Shaqra, the official said. Shaqra is on a major shipping route and the gateway for Somalis entering Yemen to fight alongside Al-Qaeda.
The military’s month-old offensive has cut off supplies of food and medicine and forced thousands to flee their homes, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday.
Concerned about the humanitarian and security crisis in Yemen, Gulf Arab states and the West pledged more than $ 4 billion in aid to the impoverished state last month.