Yemeni forces kill al-Qaeda leader in Abyan

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

Civilians and Yemeni forces are seen in the Abyan province capital of Zinjibar on August 15th, 2016, a day after they entered the city to recapture it from al-Qaeda. [Salah al-Obeidi/AFP]

Civilians and Yemeni forces are seen in the Abyan province capital of Zinjibar on August 15th, 2016, a day after they entered the city to recapture it from al-Qaeda. [Salah al-Obeidi/AFP]

Yemeni forces recently succeeded in thwarting an al-Qaeda attack on a security post in Abyan province's al-Wadea district, killing a senior operative before he could reach his target, officials said.

On December 13th, al-Qaeda leader and explosives expert Saleh al-Barak engaged in a gun battle with forces stationed at the security post, said Mohammed Sabgha, commander of the Security Belt forces in al-Wadea district.

Al-Barak was killed in an exchange of fire that lasted several minutes, before he and his two companions could reach the post, he told Al-Mashareq, adding that his two companions fled the scene.

"Security vigilance was high among the members of the post when he started his attack, and they managed to kill him before he reached the centre of the security post," Sabgha said.

"Al-Barak is a dangerous al-Qaeda leader, an explosives expert and a maker of explosive belts," he said. "If he had succeeded in detonating the explosive belt he was carrying, it would have been sufficient to kill everybody at the security post, both its members and civilian passers-by."

Security Belt forces had previously raided al-Barak's house and arrested his brother, Sabgha said, adding that a stockpile of explosives, explosive belts and various weapons was found inside the house.

"Al-Barak is responsible for the killing of Security Belt officers, including Hakim Amir, and the killing of another officer in the popular committees called [Mansour] al-Naes," he said.

"He also is responsible for the bombing of the courthouse building in al-Wadea, when [al-Qaeda] elements took control of the district."

Improved security situation

Yemeni army and Security Belt forces managed to liberate al-Wadea district at the beginning of September as part of a campaign to purge Abyan of al-Qaeda.

A campaign to capture terrorist elements was carried out by the 1st Infantry Brigade, under the command of Brig. Munir al-Yafei ("Abu al-Yamama"), and Security Belt forces in Abyan, under the command of Col. Abdul Latif al-Sayyid.

This campaign succeeded in capturing al-Qaeda leaders and seizing a large factory which had been used for manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs), "sticky bombs", car bombs and other types of explosives, Sabgha said.

"The security situation in al-Wadea is improved compared to the times when there were al-Qaeda elements in the district," al-Wadea district director Qasim Abadi told Al-Mashareq.

"The marked improvement in the security situation is due to the sacrifices made by the Security Belt troops and the members of the army, who continue to track down terrorist elements and raid their bases," he said.

"The successive security successes have been a result of the co-operation of the popular committees, as well as citizens, with the members of the Security Belt," said Abdul Majid al-Salahi of the local council in Abyan province.

"The citizens’ suffering when al-Qaeda elements were in their areas has motivated them to co-operate and do more for security and stability at this stage," he told Al-Mashareq.

During a December 14th meeting with security personnel in the province, Abyan governor Maj. Gen. Abu Bakr Hussain Salem stressed the importance of keeping high security vigilance and increasing training programmes.

He also stressed the need to build a strong relationship with the local community "in order to achieve more successes security-wise", al-Salahi said.

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