Al-Riyan airport in the Hadramaut provincial capital of al-Mukalla is preparing to resume operations after a four-year stoppage, local officials said.
The airport was heavily damaged when al-Qaeda seized control of the port city in 2015, and all operations ceased.
Speaking at an April 24th ceremony marking the third anniversary of the Hadramaut coast's liberation from al-Qaeda, Hadramaut governor Maj. Gen. Faraj Salmeen al-Bahsani declared the airport ready to resume operations.
The airport will be opened and the first flights will take off "very soon", he said.
Al-Qaeda seized control of al-Mukalla and parts of the Hadramaut coast on April 2nd, 2015. Hadramaut Elite Forces, backed by the Arab coalition, and Emirati forces in particular, liberated these areas on April 24th, 2016.
"Hadramaut province is currently holding a variety of celebrations to mark the third anniversary of the liberation of coastal Hadramaut from al-Qaeda’s control," said 2nd Military Zone spokesman Hisham al-Jabri.
This includes a number of service-related projects, he said, adding that al-Riyan airport's restoration is "one of the greatest achievements yielded by the liberation of al-Mukalla from al-Qaeda, with the support of the Arab coalition".
Emirati help with restoration
The facility will be reopened soon, al-Jabri said, revealing that "a large lobby worthy of al-Riyan Airport was built with the support of the UAE".
Work to complete the terminal has "proceeded at a feverish pace", he added.
Al-Bahsani issued a circular to the airport staff on April 20th announcing the resumption of official working hours for airport employees.
The airport "is ready to resume operations", al-Riyan airport director Anis Baswitin told Al-Mashareq.
"Some work still needs to be done, and once it is completed, international and Arab aviation outfits as well as airlines companies will be notified," he said.
"The UAE has given a lot to the people of Hadramaut, especially towards the construction of the airport’s buildings and rehabilitation of the old airport to international specifications," he said.
It also has provided the airport with security inspection equipment, and furnished its control tower with advanced equipment, Baswitin added.
Al-Riyan airport is a 'lifeline'
"Hadramaut is enjoying security, safety and freedom, and the existence of an effective authority is the strongest evidence of this," said Faiza Bani, a civil society activist in Hadramaut province.
"The airport was closed for four years due to the destruction and vandalism it suffered at the hands of al-Qaeda, and not one civilian or military aircraft took off or landed from it in the past period," she said.
"Al-Riyan airport is indeed ready, and I have visited it several times," she told Al-Mashareq, describing the facility as "a lifeline for the people of Hadramaut".
Travel was "extremely difficult for the people of coastal Hadramaut, who were forced to head to Seyoun or Aden airport to travel", Bani said.
Patients suffered the most as a result of the closure, she added, noting that residents of the province and country will welcome its return to service.