By Saeed Al-Batati
At least 26 people were killed on Tuesday when Al-Qaeda militants attacked a military outpost manned by Yemeni security forces in the southern province of Abyan, the group’s deadliest strike in months.
Mohammed Al-Naqeeb, a spokesperson for pro-independence southern forces, said the attack on a Security Belt Forces location in Ahwar resulted in hours of heavy fighting and the deaths of 20 soldiers, including local security leader Col. Yasser Nasser Shayae, and six militants.
“The attackers used a variety of weapons, including heavy and light machine guns, RPGs and grenades, and our forces were able to neutralize them all,” Al-Naqeeb said.
The attack comes as military and security forces seek to reclaim control of several rugged and remote areas in the south that have long been regarded as safe havens for militants.
Thanks to help from the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, Yemeni forces have largely succeeded in thwarting Al-Qaeda’s attempts to regroup and thus recapture cities in southern provinces.
Since early 2016, Yemeni troops have driven militants out of Al-Mukalla, the capital of the southeastern province of Hadramout, Zinjbar and other Abyan cities, as well as Lahj province. Hundreds of soldiers have been killed or injured in attacks by Al-Qaeda over the period.
Residents of Abyan have recently reported seeing militants setting up checkpoints in remote areas, attacking locals and kidnapping security and military personnel, despite efforts to confront them.
The latest attack prompted officials to call for increased international support for security and military units.
“We are dealing with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the world’s largest terrorist organization. If we were successful in defeating them, the world as a whole, not just the south, would benefit,” Al-Naqeeb said.
Mohammed Al-Ghaithi, the head of the Consultations and Reconciliation Commission, a body that advises the Presidential Leadership Council, said that peace would not come until all terrorist organizations and those who support them were destroyed.
He also called for military support so that forces could fight Al-Qaeda and other armed groups.
“Peace and stability can only be attained by utterly eradicating terrorism and its supporters.,” he said.
“Friends, partners and allies from across the globe and in our region must assume full accountability for our military’s battle against terrorism, including the obligation to assist our troops as they face this incredibly deadly common threat.”