Call for vigilance after al-Qaeda killings in Yemen

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


Yemeni forces walk in Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, in this file photo from August 16th, 2016, following an offensive backed by Arab coalition airstrikes to recapture the city from al-Qaeda. [Saleh al-Obeidi/AFP]

Yemeni security officials and analysts are calling for heightened vigilance and a return to the reconciliation process in the aftermath of four assassinations in the country's southern provinces carried out by al-Qaeda elements.

"Al-Qaeda elements on Thursday (July 23rd) carried out two assassinations of Security Belt Forces soldiers in Abyan province," the force's Morale Guidance Department said in a statement.

In the first attack, gunmen in a pick-up truck opened fire on soldier Mohammed Fadhl al-Hashni in Abyan province's al-Wadea district, killing him instantly.

Al-Qaeda gunmen later opened deadly fire on soldier Hani Lahdab in the province's eastern Mudiyah district.

In neighbouring Shabwa province, al-Qaeda gunmen on Thursday afternoon assassinated Mushtaq Abdul Razzaq, a Shabwa Elite Forces soldier, on the Azzan-al-Houta highway.

And last Friday, al-Qaeda elements targeted and killed a Security Belt Forces soldier in Abyan's al-Mahfad district with an improvised explosive device (IED).

Troops must be 'vigilant'

The Security Belt Forces warned that al-Qaeda has been more active in the southern provinces recently, following a previous decline in the group's activities after successful military and security campaigns carried out a year ago.

These campaigns were carried out by Yemeni forces and Security Belt Forces, which are backed and trained by the UAE.

Al-Qaeda has been active in Abyan for years, but the group has recently picked up its activities in several areas of the province, the Security Belt Forces said.

Meanwhile, Ahmed al-Rabizi, a leader of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC), urged the Security Belt Forces and Shabwa Elite Forces in Abyan and Shabwa provinces to be highly vigilant and protect themselves.

In a social media post, al-Rabizi noted that al-Qaeda had picked up its activities with the apparent aim of exacting revenge and countering the deployment of security forces to Abyan's Shaqra district and other areas of the province.

Riyadh Agreement is key

Failure to accelerate the implementation of the power-sharing agreement signed in Riyadh last November between the Yemeni government and the STC has opened the door to al-Qaeda, political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

Al-Qaeda and other extremists have exploited the political stalemate to resume their terrorist activities and carry out acts of revenge against the forces that took part in clearing Abyan, he said.

"UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths had warned that terrorist groups would exploit the disputes between the legitimate government and STC to resume their activities and carry out their terrorist plots," he said.

Meanwhile, he urged Saudi Arabia, in its capacity as sponsor of the Riyadh Agreement, to accelerate the implementation of the agreement in order to unify efforts against extremist groups and tighten the noose on them.

The implementation of the agreement is also necessary in order to restore the state and institutions from the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah), he said.

"Any delay in implementing the agreement will be in the interest of the Houthis and of terrorist groups," he cautioned.

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