Elite force boosts security in Yemen’s Hadramaut

By Abu Bakr al-Yamani in Sanaa

Yemeni forces inspect vehicles at a checkpoint in the Hadramaut provincial capital of al-Mukalla on July 19th, a day after 11 people were killed in twin bombings claimed by al-Qaeda. [Abduljabbar Bajubair/AFP]

Yemeni forces inspect vehicles at a checkpoint in the Hadramaut provincial capital of al-Mukalla on July 19th, a day after 11 people were killed in twin bombings claimed by al-Qaeda. [Abduljabbar Bajubair/AFP]

Elite forces from Yemen's Hadramaut province have been playing a critical -- and expanding -- role in maintaining security and stability in the southern province and its surrounding areas, Yemeni officials tell Al-Mashareq.

These forces have been deployed in the area since Yemeni forces, backed by the coalition, regained control last April of the provincial capital of al-Mukalla, which had been under al-Qaeda’s control for close to a year.

Speaking at the January 26th graduation ceremony of the third batch of elite Hadramaut fighters, provincial governor Ahmed Saeed bin Breyk said these forces play a critical role in defending their homeland and eradicating terrorism.

They strive to keep Hadramaut province safe, stable and free of extremist groups such as al-Qaeda, he said.

The latest batch of graduates will boost the capacity of the elite forces, which already are scoring military achievements on the ground, bin Breyk said.

These fighters will soon be joined by other graduates of Coast Guard, commando and counter-terrorism forces training, he added.

Mission to fight terrorism

On January 14th, elite forces foiled a would-be suicide attack a few hours before it was to be carried out in the city of al-Shehr, arresting a 19-year-old al-Qaeda element, local media reported.

According to a military source, the detainee confessed to being involved in combat operations alongside al-Qaeda in al-Dhaba at the time of the Yemeni and coalition operation to liberate al-Mukalla.

He was part of the sleeper cells that are now being persistently and systematically hunted down, the military source said.

"The elite forces’ mission is to maintain security and stability and fight terrorism, and they have largely succeeded in disrupting terrorist plots before they are carried out," said Hadramaut deputy governor Abd al-Hadi al-Tamimi.

Recruiting members of the force from among the population of the region and province in which it serves was a successful idea that yielded positive results, he told Al-Mashareq.

Al-Tamimi stressed the importance of continuing to expand the ranks of these forces and graduating new batches of recruits with the support of the coalition, which has been playing a positive role in forming, training and arming them.

"Hadramaut province still needs more of these forces," he said, noting that their current area of deployment is limited to the Hadramaut coast and some areas in neighbouring Shabwa province.

Deploying these forces in al-Mahra province and Socotra Island would enhance the security of the eastern part of Yemen in general, he added.

Forces deployed in Shabwa

Shabwa province "will get its share" of the third batch of elite forces graduates, Shabwa deputy governor Nasser al-Qamishi told Al-Mashareq.

These graduates will join the force that deployed in December, which is currently maintaining security and stability in Balhaf and neighbouring areas, he said.

Shabwa province falls within the 2nd military zone, headed by Maj. Gen. Faraj Salmeen who oversees the elite force, he said.

A full "3,000 Hadramaut elite force members will be distributed among a number of districts in Shabwa province to take charge of maintaining security and fight al-Qaeda cells lurking in the province", al-Qamishi added.

The province is home to the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility, which is considered the largest economic facility in the country.

"The Hadramaut elite forces are a qualitative addition to the security agencies, especially in the area of combating terrorism and organised crime," political and security affairs researcher Adnan al-Humairi told Al-Mashareq.

"The qualitative training these forces undergo contributes to the success of the tasks assigned to them," he said.

The co-operation of Hadramaut residents with these forces and Yemeni and security forces in general has been a major factor in the significant improvement in the security situation, he added.

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