By Arab News
By Saeed Al-Batati
Yemeni military forces have retaken a major military facility and surrounding mountains from Al-Qaeda in the southern province of Abyan, consolidating gains made against the militants within their strongholds.
Mohammed Al-Naqeeb, a military spokesperson for the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council, told Arab News on Monday that their forces had fully taken control of a significant military base used by Al-Qaeda militants in the Omaran valley in Abyan.
Sappers have combed the valley in search of landmines and improvised explosive devices that the militants may have planted.
“This is an Al-Qaeda international military facility. We discovered a lot of mortar shells, ammunition, and IEDs hidden in the camp,” Al-Naqeeb said, adding that permanent military forces would be stationed in the valley to prevent Al-Qaeda from resuming operations.
Early last week, pro-independence Yemeni forces launched an offensive in Abyan and the province of Shabwa with the aim of eradicating Al-Qaeda from the area, including a chain of mountains that connects the two provinces with Houthi-held Al-Bayda.
For the first time in years, government forces successfully stormed Al-Qaeda hideouts and military facilities in Al-Mousinah in Shabwa, as well as Omaran.
Al-Naqeeb said that during the previous 48 hours, two soldiers were killed and numerous others injured, as militants detonated 25 roadside IEDs in an effort to stop the advance.
The government forces will go to Al-Mahfad, another long-standing Al-Qaeda hideout in Abyan, after securing the liberated regions in Omaran.
Al-Qaeda affiliate accounts posted statements on social media disputing government claims that they had advanced into Omaran, countering that they had attacked government outposts, detonated bombs, and prevented government troops from taking control of the valley.
The Yemen-based branch of Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has been significantly weakened, according to terrorism experts, due to a lack of leadership, financial issues, competition with Daesh — which has courted Al-Qaeda operatives — and serious military operations.
Yemeni counterterrorism expert Saeed Obeid Al-Jemhi stated that the weakened Al-Qaeda would only use guerrilla warfare tactics to confront expanding government forces, adding that the militant group resorted to kidnappings to fill its empty coffers.
“The organization is in a position that prevents it from responding other than through defensive operations, such as planting roadside bombs or targeting military barricades,” Al-Jemhi said.