Al Mukalla: Yemeni government forces, backed by air support from the Saudi-led coalition, have killed two Al Qaida commanders in Abyan and arrested several Daesh and Al Qaida operatives in the province, a top army commander told Gulf News on Tuesday.

Colonel Muneer Al Mesha’ali, the commander of elite army troops battling Al Qaida in the province, said that his forces have made big advances in its current offensive against Al Qaida and Daesh in the province of Abyan and the militants are holed up inside small villages or on the mountains.

Speaking briefly to Gulf News from the battlefield, Al Mesha’ali said that his forces killed Mohammad Saleh Al Awsaji, a local Al Qaida commander, in brief clashes in Lawder region on Monday.

Al Khadar Basaria, another Al Qaida commander in Wadiya’a district, was found dead in a deserted house in Wadiya’a after he suffered critical injuries following clashes with government forces.

“We have also arrested two Daesh operatives in Abyan. The situation is under control and we are determined to cleanse Abyan of Al Qaida,” Al Mesha’ali said shortly after his forces stormed new areas in Lawader district.

The ongoing offensive against militant groups in Abyan began last week — hundreds of elite forces trained and armed by the UAE military forces in Yemen have been dispatched.

Government troops have taken complete control of Wadiya’a and Lawder districts including scattered villages that have long served as safe havens for the militants.

Asked about how they would deal with Al Qaida militants who are hiding in Abyan’s rugged mountains, Al Mesha’ali said that Saudi-led coalition fighter jets would drive the militants out of the mountains and his forces would work on securing the liberated areas by setting up checkpoints and raiding suspected hiding places.

Abyan, the home province of Yemen’s president, has been beset with anarchy that enabled Al Qaida to sweep in. Consecutive military offensives have largely failed to completely purge the militants.

This time, local army commanders said, the current offensive is working. Many Al Qaida senior commanders like Qasim Al Raymi and Khalid Batrafi have been on the run since being driven out of Al Mukalla in April last year.

Authorities believe they could be hiding somewhere in a chain of mountains that link Baydah, Shabwa and Abyan provinces.

The Yemeni army has also dispatched additional forces in the desert and valley parts of Hadramout on Monday to hunt suspected militants who killed two soldiers in the Houta region, west of Seiyun city, Hadramout’s second largest city.