Hadramaut elite forces backed by coalition helicopters carried out two recent raids that netted two key al-Qaeda elements, Yemeni officials told Al-Mashareq.
Senior al-Qaeda leaders Ahmed Said Awad Barhamah, known as "Yemen's al-Zarqawi", and Abu Ali al-Sayari were arrested during separate raids in Hadramaut province, along with a number of other al-Qaeda elements.
"Coalition helicopters carried out an air operation in support of the anti-terrorism forces of the Yemeni army, which carried out a pre-emptive operation Friday evening (April 21st) as part of its raids against al-Qaeda hideouts in the city of al-Mukalla," the coalition command said in a statement.
Equipment, vehicles and weapons that were being prepared for use in terrorist attacks on a number of areas in Hadramaut also were seized in the operation, the statement said.
Barhamah was detained in al-Mukalla's al-Tawila district, the coalition said.
In an April 22nd statement carried by al-Hadath TV channel, Hadramaut governor Ahmed Saeed bin Breyk revealed that elite forces on the Hadramaut coast had carried out two pre-emptive operations against al-Qaeda elements.
An ambush in Adem Valley targeted al-Sayari, he said, while ground forces raided Barhamah's position in al-Mukalla after monitoring his movements, with support from coalition helicopters.
Various weapons, ammunition and explosive belts were seized in the operations, and Barhamah and a number of his companions were arrested.
According to bin Breyk, al-Sayari is the al-Qaeda leader responsible for the slaughter of soldiers in the Khashaa area in 2014.
In retaliation for the arrests, al-Qaeda operatives on April 23rd attacked a military post in the province's Doan area, killing one Yemeni solider and wounding three others, local media reported.
Heightened security amid celebrations
The military operations against al-Qaeda come as Hadramaut celebrates the first anniversary of the April 24th, 2016 liberation of the coastal areas.
Hadramaut deputy governor Abd al-Hadi al-Tamimi said the celebrations were not limited to the directorates that were once controlled by al-Qaeda, but include all directorates on the coast and in Wadi Hadramaut.
"Political and military backing from the Arab coalition were a contributing factor that enabled the Hadramaut coast to break free of al-Qaeda," al-Tamimi said.
Public co-operation was critical to the security successes achieved, he said, including the apprehension of terror cells, the arrest of the group’s leaders and the seizure of their weapons.
Al-Mukalla directorate head Abdul Baqi al-Huthari told Al-Mashareq the 2nd military zone heightened its security procedures and the readiness of its forces ahead of the first anniversary celebrations.
He praised the recent pre-emptive operations carried out by the elite and coalition forces, and noted that security successes over the past year include the break up of numerous terror cells and raids on their hideouts.
"These security and military successes are an extension of the successes achieved by the elite forces more than a year ago, when they successfully liberated al-Mukalla from al-Qaeda’s control," he said.
"The importance of these security operations lies in the value of the arrested leaders, as Abu Ali al-Sayari is the group’s second in command who [once] controlled the city of al-Mukalla and surrounding areas," political affairs researcher Adnan al-Humairi told Al-Mashareq.
The seizure of weapons, ammunition and explosive belts indicates that the group was in the process of preparing to carry out suicide attacks, he said.
In light of the raids and anniversary celebrations, the elite forces "heightened security precautions at the entrances of cities and set up checkpoints in anticipation and preparation for any potential terrorist attack by the group".