300 Al Qaida members held in Yemen’s Lahej province since April

Coalition air defence systems intercept two ballistic missiles fired at city of Marib

Gulf News

Al Mukalla: Some 300 Al Qaida members have been arrested since April this year when Yemeni government forces expelled the militants from the southern province of Lahej, the province’s chief of security said.

Saleh Al Syed told Aden Al Ghad newspaper on Wednesday that the province has enjoyed peace and stability ever since the security apparatus succeeded in flushing out terrorists from 95 per cent of the province, adding that some of the militants had fled the government crackdown to Al Houthi-held Bayda province.

Al Qaida had exploited the security vacuum caused by the war pitting government forces against Al Houthis and seized large swathes of land in southern Yemen, including Lahej province. The government recaptured the province from Al Qaida in April after receiving military support from the Saudi-led Arab coalition.

Separately, Yemeni army spokesperson Brigadier General Abdo Abdullah Moujalli told Gulf News on Thursday that the government forces in the southern city of Taiz were engaged in fierce clashes with Al Houthis who had suffered major setbacks in battles over the course of the week. “The recent territorial gains in Taiz have boosted the government forces’ confidence. They have also received modern arms from the Saudi-led coalition.”

Army commanders in the city said that their forces had taken control of several locations on the eastern and western sides of the city and thwarted an Al Houthi attack on an air defence brigade.

Local activists who track casualties in the fighting said that six Al Houthis and three government troops were killed in clashes in Taiz. Two civilians were killed and 11 others injured in heavy shelling by the Al Houthis on residential areas.

Moujalli added that air defence systems operated by the coalition on Thursday had intercepted two ballistic missiles fired from Al Houthi-controlled territories at the city of Marib, the base of thousands of government and coalition troops. Many similar missile attacks have failed to hit their targets in Marib in the last couple of weeks.

Politically, the Yemeni government has stood by its rejection of the latest peace plan proposed by UN envoy to Yemen, Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad. The peace plan calls for President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to accept a figurehead role after passing on his powers to a new vice-president. Vice-President Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar told the British military attache in Riyadh that the internationally supported government would accept peace plans based on three reference points: the UN Security Council resolution 2216, outcomes of National Dialogue Conference and the GCC peace initiative.

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