Al Mukalla: Security authorities in Yemen’s province of Hadramout are searching for two French nationals linked to Al Qaida and responsible for staging terrorist attacks against government personnel and facilities.

The governor of Hadramout, Major General Ahmad Bin Bourek, said security services suspect the two French militants are hiding somewhere in the large province, but downplayed their ability to carry out attacks in future. Bin Bourek told the Saudi Al Madina daily on Wednesday 80 per cent of leading Al Qaida militants who held the city of Al Mukalla, Hadramout’s capital, and the neighbouring coastal regions for one year are behind bars, and the local security authorities are hunting for the fugitive militants including the two French nationals. “There are some Al Qaida inmates of Arab nationalities, but most of them are from Yemen.”

Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, suffered a major blow in April last year when thousands of government forces, trained and armed by the UAE, stormed Al Mukalla, bringing an end to the militants’ year-long occupation of the port city. After liberation, the army announced killing hundreds of militants in clashes with the government forces or in air strikes by Saudi-led coalition warplanes.

Shortly after that, the militants suffered more setbacks in other southern provinces when similar UAE-backed forces ejected them from Lahj, Abyan and Shabwa.

The governor of Hadramout said the militants expelled from Al Mukalla are hiding in other provinces like Sana’a, Shabwa and Baydha, and two thousand people who worked with Al Qaida during their reign in Al Mukalla were freed after receiving pledges from their relatives that they would never help the militants again.

Unlike other former Al Qaida strongholds that are plagued by instability, security has improved significantly in Al Mukalla, Ghayal Bawazer and Sheher towns. The strong security apparatus has put an end to months of drive-by killings that claimed the lives of dozens of intelligence officers in the past.

Also in the south, local media reports said on Wednesday a soldier was killed and several others injured when an explosive-laden car ripped through a convoy of a local army commander in the town of Lowder, Abyan province.

Aden Al Ghad, an independent news site based in the port city of Aden, reported Amen Al Saqaf, a senior officer in the Security Belt forces, was hurt in the attack that bore the hallmarks of Al Qaida militants, said medics and security sources.