Yemen’s Al-Qaeda booby traps southern city, 25 dead
Reporting to Abyan’s governor, the YEMAC said it had cleared or exploded over 2100 shells and mines since June 13, the day after al Qaeda’s retreat from strongholds in Abyan. Several hundred mines remain active and the de-mining group is urging public caution.
A local Sheikh in Zinjibar said the terrorists had sown explosives throughout the city’s main streets, and warned against early repatriation of tens of thousands of residents displaced by al-Qaeda’s year long occupation of the provincial capital.
The fanatical group had operated in Abyan under the brand Ansar al Sharia, or Supporters of Sharia, in order to distance itself from negative public perception Yemen’s al Qaeda affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Also on Sunday Yemeni authorities announced they had reclaimed control of the town of Azzan in neighboring Shabwa province. It was the latest in a series of successes against AQAP under President Mansour Hadi who assumed office in February after a year of nationwide protests against the 33 year military dictatorship of Ali Saleh.
The Saleh regime long exploited the al Qaeda threat to elicit aid from the US and Saudi Arabia. At times, members of the former regime provided material support to al Qaeda despite hundreds of millions in counter-terror aid from the United States. These ties continue to hamper efforts to reassert state control and provide security to the public.
In May the perpetrator of an attack that killed 98 soldiers was found to be a member of the Central Security, commanded by Ali Saleh’s nephew, Yahya Saleh, military officials said. One analyst called it, “one desperate attempt by both al-Qaida and Saleh’s regime to survive.” Yahya Saleh was demoted following the attack.
In June, a senior military commander Major Ali Salem Qatan was murdered by a suicide bomber in Aden where the general has been orchestrating the military campaign against the al Qaeda franchise.
Qatan had been appointed by President Hadi in March, replacing Maj. Gen. Mahdi al-Magwala who was often accused of collusion with the militants. Yemeni authorities later arrested Sami Dhayan in connection with the attack. A jihaddist mercenary ties to the Saleh regime, Dhayan along with two others was captured in possession of explosives and suicide vests.