Yemen's Shabwa province is almost free of the presence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), its governor has said, thanks to the efforts of Yemeni forces and security agencies operating in partnership with the Arab coalition.
Shabwa was overrun by extremists after the Yemeni state was undermined by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah), Shabwa governor Mohammed bin Edeyo said in a Monday (February 11th) interview with Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.
During the power vacuum caused by the absence of state institutions, al-Qaeda started meting out hudud punishment, imprisoning people and hanging them on bridges and electricity poles, he said.
"Such groups emerge when the state becomes absent and weak," he told Asharaq al-Awsat. "Today, however, the situation has changed and Shabwa is in control of all areas of its province, which is why the terrorists have disappeared."
Some al-Qaeda elements are being held in Shabwa jails, he said, but once they are questioned, "we realise [most] have been duped into joining the group, and they soon abandon the extremist ideology", he told the Saudi-owned newspaper.
Restoration of state control
The Shabwa governor hailed the Arab coalition for its role in combating both al-Qaeda and the Houthis, saying the whole of Yemen is indebted to it.
"Had it not been for the coalition and its support for Yemen, we would have become an Iranian state," he told Asharq al-Awsat. "The coalition has exerted massive efforts in combating the Iranian expansion in Yemen, and its efforts are still ongoing."
General People's Congress general committee member Adel al-Shujaa echoed bin Edeyo's words, telling Al-Mashareq that operations against al-Qaeda or other extremist groups "will only succeed with the restoration of state institutions".
The full elimination of al-Qaeda also requires "cohesion of security agencies and the involvement of people in protecting domestic peace", he said.
Meanwhile Mohammed Azzan, an expert on extremist groups, told Al-Mashareq that al-Qaeda’s continued presence in any area of Yemen is now dependent on the continuation of the conflict in Yemen.
"We can get rid of al-Qaeda once and for all by ending the ongoing conflict between the Houthis and the legitimate government," he said.