With a military parade and an array of peaceful cultural activities, residents of Yemen's Hadramaut on Tuesday (April 24th) marked the two year anniversary of al-Qaeda's ouster from the province's coastal cities.
Protected by tight security, residents of all ages watched as the brigades and units of the 2nd Military District took part in a procession to celebrate the April 24th, 2016 liberation, which ended a year of al-Qaeda rule.
The celebrations, which began in the provincial capital of al-Mukalla on Monday, featured a range of activities, including popular games, art shows and sports contests.
Improved street cleaning and lighting signaled a brighter era for the province, and in the same vein an award was offered to the best-tended neighbourhood.
"We are celebrating a day on which Hadramaut and the entire country rejoice for the liberation of al-Mukalla and surrounding areas from al-Qaeda," Hadramaut security chief Brig. Gen. Salem Abdullah al-Khanbashi told Al-Mashareq.
"Hadramaut governor Maj. Gen. Faraj al-Bahsani highlighted the importance of good preparations and the need for the event to be well-organised to reflect the happiness of Hadramaut people for the liberation of their cities," he said.
A culture of peace
The liberation was achieved through the efforts of Hadramaut elite forces, with the support of the Arab coalition, al-Khanbashi said.
He credited the current stability in Hadramaut to "the positive role played by the people and their co-operation with the security agencies".
Local media also have contributed to "spreading a culture of peace and love and rejection of terrorism and extremism" through various mediums, he said.
"The liberation of al-Mukalla from al-Qaeda is a historical day," said Yassin Omar Bamadhaf, branch manager of the Yemeni Company for Insurance and Re-Insurance in Hadramaut.
"It brought the city back to its normal condition after al-Qaeda elements governed it according to their whims," he told Al-Mashareq.
Al-Mukalla today is different from how it was under al-Qaeda’s control, whether in business, services or public and private freedoms, he added.
Al-Qaeda has retracted
"Repression and crackdowns on freedoms had forced residents of cities that were controlled by al-Qaeda to act against those terrorists," al-Mukalla native and public sector employee Mohammed Zeyad told Al-Mashareq.
"Everyone rejected the acts of those elements who governed according to their whims, cutting off hands and heads without recognised trials," he said.
One year after the UAE-led coalition forces recaptured Hadramaut and Shabwa and defeated al-Qaeda, the group’s area of operation has retracted, said Adnan al-Humairi, an expert on extremist groups.
This prompted al-Qaeda "to adopt a re-positioning strategy in safe areas and to hide in the form of sleeper cells", he told Al-Mashareq.
"The alliance of Hadramaut tribes has provided a popular and political umbrella for the UAE-led coalition forces to combat terrorism," he added. "This is in addition to the formation of Hadramaut and Shabwa elite forces."
Elite forces control certain areas, he said, "especially the strategic oil areas on Hadramaut coast, and the oil export and import ports".
Coalition-backed operations targeting al-Qaeda in Hadramaut's Wadi Dawan, Shabwa province's Azzan and al-Saeed district and Abyan's al-Mahfad district in late 2017 and early 2018 have reduced the group's activities, he said.
"Residents repelled al-Qaeda’s attempts to recapture their areas because they did not want their areas to turn into a field of conflicts," he said. "The presence of coalition forces and supporting military units has encouraged them to confront the terrorists."