Al Mukalla: The governor of southern Yemen’s province of Abyan has strongly denied media reports that Al Qaida militants are controlling some towns, taking advantage of withdrawal of some army troops.

Al Khader Al Saidi told Gulf News by telephone on Thursday that local authorities backed by tribesmen have foiled many attempts by Al Qaida militants to make a comeback. “Al Qaida militants tried last week to take control of the main police station in Lawder town. The government forces and local tribesmen pushed them back,” Al Saidi said.

Days after the US carried out a botched commando raid on suspected Al Qaida operatives in the neighbouring Baydha province on January 29, Al Qaida stepped up attacks against the military in Abyan province.

Local and international news outlets reported afterward that the militants stormed three towns in the province after some army soldiers left for Aden in protest against unpaid salaries. “This news is baseless. We are in full control of all major towns in the province,” the governor said.

Abyan, the home province of Yemen president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has been the main battleground for the government’s intermittent war against Al Qaida.

The militants seized control of main cities in the province in 2011 cashing in on a power vacuum during the Arab Spring inspired anti-regime protest. The army backed by the US drove the militants out of the province, but not before reducing those cities to ruins. The militants resurfaced early 2015 during the fight against Al Houthis and captured the province’s capital and other cities. The army backed by the Saudi-led coalition took control of Al Qaida strongholds in August last year.

“Nowadays, Al Qaida militants surface and then disappear. They come from Hadramout, Marib and Baydha,”

Al Saidi said he has urged the internationally recognised government in Aden to support thousands of army and security troops and deploy them in the province to boost security and help thwart Al Qaida attacks.

“I demand the government to help us brining back security and military institutes. There are four brigades that can take charge of security in the province provided the government arms them and builds their bases and offices, “Al Saidi said.

The governor said the province is in desperate need of “Marshal plan” to recover from years of wars and lawlessness. “The local authorities have no offices. The military camps are destroyed. The displaced people could not return because no one has helped them to rebuild their damaged homes.”