Al Mukalla: UAE-backed Yemeni forces have captured a middle-ranking Al Qaida operative in a remote area in the southern province of Shabwa, a local military officer told Gulf News on Tuesday.
Dozens of heavily armed Shabwani Elite soldiers captured Roues Abdullah Mubarak Al Sheuhi Al Awlaki after besieging his hideout in a remote area in the district of Al Sayed. “After receiving a tip-off about his location, our forces quietly headed to Al Awlaki’s hiding place on Sunday morning. He surrendered shortly after we besieged his hideout,” the officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief reporters. Al Awlaki was identified as an aide to Saad Bin Atef Al Awlaki, Al Qaida’s leader in the Al Sayed district.
Al Qaida’s branch in Yemen, known as Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, has suffered a series of setbacks since early 2016 when thousands of Yemeni forces trained and armed by the UAE military in Yemen expelled them from their strongholds in southern Yemen. The militants exploited the anarchy of the early days of the Saudi-led coalition military operations in Yemen to take control of a large parts of southern Yemen, including Al Mukalla, Yemen’s fifth largest city and the capital of the south-eastern province of Hadramout. The officer said Yemeni forces have squeezed the militants into scattered villages and rugged mountains in the province.
Last month, hundreds of troops, backed by UAE military advisers and fighter jets, seized control of the Al Sayed district, inflicting a fatal blow to the militants who have long used the district’s rough topographical nature to train new fighters and plot attacks against military targets. The district is the birthplace of Anwar Al Awlaki, the US-Yemeni cleric who was killed in a US drone strike in 2011.
Meanwhile on the Red Sea front, Yemen’s Defence Ministry said that government troops swapped eight Al Houthis militants for the bodies of seven government forces killed in the fighting and a prisoner. The exchange comes as government forces besiege Al Jarrahi town in the province of Hodeida, in an attempt to force Al Houthi militants to surrender.
Backed by massive air support from the Saudi-led coalition, Yemeni government forces have pushed deeper into the province of Hodeida after liberating a number of military posts and key towns along the Red Sea. The ministry said government forces engaged in heavy fighting with Al Houthis in Taiz, Lahj and the northern province of Hajja on Tuesday.