Feb. 08, 2016

Agence France Presse

ADEN, Yemen: Al-Qaeda overran a police headquarters in a south Yemen provincial capital Saturday, strengthening their grip on the coast road overlooking the Gulf of Aden, security sources said.

Militants, who hold parts of the lawless south of the war-torn country, seized the headquarters in Zinjibar unopposed by pro-government forces who fled the capital of Abyan province, the sources told AFP.

Militants have controlled other government buildings in Zinjibar for weeks and also have a large presence in the nearby town of Jaar.

Also Saturday, a Saudi patrol was hit in the southwestern region of Assir, killing the soldier, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

Later in the day, the southwestern city of Najran was struck, leaving dead a foreign resident, a civil defense spokesman said in a statement on SPA.

About 90 civilians and soldiers have died from shelling and skirmish along the border since March, when the Arab-led military coalition began air and ground action on Yemeni territory.

Earlier this week, Al-Qaeda seized the town of Azzan in neighboring Shabwa province.

They have also seized the towns of Shoqra and Ahwar, giving them complete control of the coast road between their stronghold city of Mukalla in the southeast and the city of Zinjibar.

Zinjibar is only about 50 kilometers from Yemen’s key southern city Aden, the government’s temporary home after the capital Sanaa fell to the Houthi rebels in September 2014.

The security sources also said that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has named Tawfiq Belaidi, brother of Jalal Belaidi who was killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike Thursday, as the “emir [ruler] of Zinjibar.”

The U.S. State Department said Jalal Belaidi was a regional AQAP emir responsible for multiple provinces in Yemen.

The United States had offered a $5 million reward for information on Belaidi over his alleged involvement in plotting bomb attacks on Western diplomatic officials and facilities in Sanaa in 2013.

The U.S. has kept up strikes on militants during months of fighting between pro-government forces and the Houthi rebels who control large parts of Yemen.

Loyalists backed by a Saudi-led coalition have recaptured Aden, Lahj, Abyan, Shabwa, and Daleh from the rebels since July.

But the Saudi-led coalition has so far not targeted militants including AQAP and Daesh (ISIS), who have gained ground in the south, attacking government officials and clashing with loyalist forces.

Source: The Daily Star.

Link: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2016/Feb-08/336136-al-qaeda-tightens-its-grip-on-south-yemen-coast.ashx.

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