UAE-backed Yemeni troops heading to rugged mountains in Shabwa in a new offensive against Al Qaida militants Image Credit: Shabwani Elite Forces

Al Mukalla: Yemeni military units, backed by UAE air power and military advisers, expanded their reach in remote rural and mountainous areas in the provinces of Hadramout and Shabwa, local commanders said.

In the south-eastern province of Hadramout, Hadhrami Elite Forces, backed by Emirati fighter jets, pushed into four remote districts northeast of the province to prevent Al Qaida militants from regrouping and staging attacks.

Major General Faraj Salmeen Al Bahsani, the governor of Hadramout, told Gulf News that army troops on Saturday launched a fresh offensive aimed at denying Al Qaida a foothold in the districts of Amed, Dhalia, Hajer and Yabouth where they cashed in on light presence of government forces to regroup.

“We launched the offensive after receiving tipoffs that Al Qaida is regrouping and plotting attacks,” the governor said, adding that the militants fled the four districts to more rugged areas before the arrival of army troops.

“The forces that were sent to expel Al Qaida from the four districts would stay there as to prevent Al Qaida from returning,” he said.

Al Bahsani said the UAE Armed Forces provided his forces with air support and military logistics that enabled them to advance quickly into the remote districts.

“The UAE has actively taken part in all operations against Al Qaida through their air cover and logistics,” he said.

Last week, the 2nd Military Region arranged a military parade in the city of Al Mukalla, the capital of Hadramout province, to mark the second anniversary of liberating Al Mukalla and neighbouring coastal areas from Al Qaida militants who held those cities for one year.

“The battle against Al Qaida will continue until we push them from all Hadramout,” Al Bahsani said.

In neighbouring Shabwa province, other Yemeni troops launched an offensive on former Al Qaida hideouts on rugged mountains and remote valleys in the district of Al Sayed, building up on previous gains in the fight against Al Qaida.

Mohammad Salem Al Buhar Al Qumishi, the commander of the advancing forces, told Gulf News that his forces moved to Rafadh valley in the district of Al Sayed to search for Al Qaida militants who might be hiding in small villages.

“We have arrested suspected militants who were inside Al Qaida’s old military camps in the valley. We would never allow Al Qaida to create safe havens in those areas,” Al Qumishi said.

Like in Hadramout, Al Qumishi said UAE fighter jets and military advisers on the ground took part in the recent push against Al Qaida in Al Sayed.

UAE-backed forces have dealt heavy blows to Al Qaida militants in Shabwa province by pushing them from their major strongholds such as Azzan, Huta and Al Sayed. After securing the province’s urban areas, the Yemeni forces moved into chasing Al Qaida in dangerous valley and mountains that have long been out of the state’s control.

Al Qaida militants exploited security vacuum during the early days of the Saudi-led military operations in Yemen to seize control of a large amount of land in Southern Yemen. Local military commanders told Gulf News that Al Qaida militants who fled military assaults in Hadramout and Shabwa are hiding in Baydha province.