Hadramaut elite forces clear al-Qaeda outpost

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


Yemeni soldiers stand guard at the scene of a car bomb attack in the town of Hajr, west of the Hadramaut provincial capital of al-Mukalla, in this file photo from July 18th, 2016. More recently, Hadramaut elite forces have been conducting an operation targeting al-Qaeda outposts in the province. [Abduljabbar Bajubair/AFP]

Hadramaut elite forces are continuing to crack down on al-Qaeda after storming the group's key outpost in Wadi al-Masini, a provincial official said.

The ongoing offensive, codename Operation al-Faisal, is being conducted with aerial support from the Arab coalition, according to Hadramaut governor and 2nd Military District Commander Maj. Gen. Faraj al-Bahsani.

Hadramaut elite forces on Sunday (February 18th) stormed an important al-Qaeda outpost in Wadi al-Masini, west of the provincial capital of al-Mukalla, where the group's elements had barricaded themselves, he said.

The operation began on Friday, he told local media, when elite forces surrounded the outpost from all sides.

Al-Qaeda had used the outpost to launch attacks on areas in Hadramaut and neighbouring provinces, security authorities said.

Security forces killed 19 suspected members of the group, and eight Yemeni soldiers also lost their lives in the ensuing clashes, AFP reported.

Other suspected al-Qaeda elements were arrested, al-Bahsani said, noting that elite forces were combing the area to ensure no pockets of fighters remain.

In addition to Wadi al-Masini, the offensive is targeting Wadi Amed.

Both areas have been an al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) stronghold, and are critical for control over Yemen's south-eastern coastline.

Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi telephoned al-Bahasani, commending the Hadramaut elite forces for their efforts to establish security and stability, local media reported.

Crackdown will continue

"The operation to clear Wadi al-Masini will continue," deputy assistant Hadramaut governor Sheikh Abdul Hadi al-Tamimi told Al-Mashareq.

Hadramaut elite forces on Monday "managed to clear hills overlooking the position where al-Qaeda elements were barricaded and where its snipers were positioned", he said.

"The elite forces are proceeding with their efforts to hunt down al-Qaeda elements after clearing their stronghold," he added.

"The hideout where the terrorists were barricaded is a strategic and fortified position, as it is located in the middle of a rough mountainous area that cannot be targeted by warplanes and can only be accessed on foot," al-Tamimi said.

"The area that has now been liberated is linked to rough mountainous passages leading to Wadi Hadramaut [Hadramaut Valley], Shabwa and Marib provinces, and it had been used by the terrorists as a base for launching their operations," he added.

Wherever the fleeing al-Qaeda remnants end up, "it will be much easier for us to hunt them down there", al-Tamimi said.

Wadi Hadramaut on alert

"The security committee in Wadi Hadramaut has held a meeting to raise the security alert, and we have warned them about potential retaliatory operations those terrorists may carry out in Wadi Hadramaut," al-Tamimi said.

The security and military units in Wadi Hadramaut do not have access to the same kind of supplies and weapons available to the security and military agencies in Sahel (coastal) Hadramaut, he noted.

"We are still talking to the Arab coalition to [try and secure support for] the security and military agencies in Wadi Hadramaut, so they can do their duty as they should in combating and uprooting terrorism," he added.

Meanwhile, Operation al-Faisal has achieved a strategic victory against al-Qaeda, political researcher Adnan al-Humairi told Al-Mashareq.

This is a significant win for the security forces due to the targeted outpost's fortified position, the area's rough terrain and its passages to three neighbouring provinces, he said.

"Al-Qaeda in Yemen is now in its weakest phases as a result of the successive defeats it has suffered, whether in Shabwa or Abyan provinces, and before that in al-Mukalla," he added, calling on security forces to "proceed with their crackdowns simultaneously".

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