Abyan residents relieved to be rid of al-Qaeda

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

This photograph, taken on August 15th, 2016, shows the streets of Zinjibar, provincial capital of the southern province of Abyan, a day after Yemeni forces entered the city. [Saleh al-Obeidi/AFP]

This photograph, taken on August 15th, 2016, shows the streets of Zinjibar, provincial capital of the southern province of Abyan, a day after Yemeni forces entered the city. [Saleh al-Obeidi/AFP]

Since Yemeni and allied forces ousted al-Qaeda from Abyan province, security conditions have improved, services are being restored and humanitarian aid is once again flowing into the area, officials tell Al-Mashareq.

Yemeni and allied forces on October 29th seized control of al-Mahfad, al-Qaeda’s last stronghold in the southern province of Abyan.

"Joint Security Belt and rapid response forces retook al-Mahfad, centre of al-Mahfad district," Abyan local council member Abdul Majeed al-Salahi told Al-Mashareq.

The district had been under al-Qaeda's control for four years, he said.

"Living and security conditions have greatly improved in the province and they continue to improve day by day," Abyan governor Abdulaziz al-Hamza told Al-Mashareq.

Abyan in recent years has suffered instability and its residents were displaced due to major conflicts, he said.

Services slowly returning

"Today, Abyan is almost one of the most stable liberated provinces security-wise," al-Hamza said, noting that state institutions have resumed their activity.

The focus has been on restoring education and services such as water and electricity, "which were missing when the terrorist gangs were in control", he said.

"But these services are not available in the capacity that is needed, as the demands are massive," al-Hamza added.

Despite these shortcomings, "the return of an atmosphere of joy and the displays of public celebrations in Abyan show the stability the province and its people are experiencing", he said.

Celebrations included an event held to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the September 26th Revolution, which the prime minister attended, he said.

"This is in addition to the celebration of other national holidays," he said, which include Revolution Day on October 14th and Independence Day on November 30th.

The Yemeni army's purging of al-Qaeda added to the celebratory atmosphere on these occasions, al-Hamza said.

A UN delegation visited Abyan for the first time in the last five years, which is further evidence of the improved security conditions in the province, he said.

Security efforts

"Credit for the restoration of stability in the province and in Khanfar district belongs to the efforts and sacrifices of the popular committees, the security services and the army," said Khanfar district secretary-general Sheikh Nasser Mansari.

The security situation has encouraged residents who left for neighbouring provinces after al-Qaeda overran Khanfar in 2014 to return, he told Al-Mashareq.

"Life is normal and commercial and humanitarian activity and the cornerstones of life are back to normal," Mansari said.

The army and the popular committees, with Arab coalition backing, succeeded in liberating Khanfar and Zinjibar districts in August 2016.

'Terrorism and stability cannot co-exist'

"The situation is now excellent and stable," al-Mahfad director-general Ahmed al-Rabie told Al-Mashareq, adding that development projects are under way.

"Four water projects are being carried out by four organisations," he said, adding that projects to renovate schools are ongoing and relief assistance is flowing to the needy, after it was cut off during al-Qaeda's rule.

"Terrorism and stability cannot co-exist," said Abyan resident Ahmed al-Mansib, who works in the private sector.

"Stability is linked to the return of the various facets of life, reconstruction and production," he told Al-Mashareq. "But if terrorist groups take over, we see only killing, destruction and devastation."

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Currently, the situation is horrible and insecure in all provinces of Yemen. Reducing a prosperous country into a pile of rubble is the act of ignorant people. I hope that security prevail in all parts of Yemen and in the entire region. And I hope that all these barbaric groups be destroyed.