An offensive military operation by Yemeni, Saudi and Emirati forces on al-Qaeda militants in the south eastern provincial capital of Mukalla has left at least 800 members of the extremist group dead including “some of their leaders” according to a statement released by the Saudi-led coalition commanders.
The oil terminal in the city, the Riyan airport and the army brigades’ headquarters on the outskirts were also recaptured. The city has been an al-Qaeda stronghold but they had to withdraw and flee to the west towards the vast desert in Hadramawt and Shabwa provinces after residents persuaded them to spare the city the ruins of fighting, a military source said.
Ground troops aided by airstrikes used Emirati military vehicles to enter the city where they faced almost no resistance.
Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) operates from Yemen and the more than one year long crisis in the country helped it widen its operations and expand the territory under its control.
The government backed by the Saudi-led coalition has embarked on a wide offensive aimed at capturing and securing strategic cities from extremist groups as it has just did in Mukalla. AQAP is considered as the most dangerous branch of the al-Qaeda network.
The Yemeni government and the coalition now seem to be fighting on two fronts, against the Houthis and against al-Qaeda.0