Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The southern Yemeni Hadhramaut governorate is under the total control of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a military source told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said: “Local authorities in Hadhramaut are non-existent and Al-Qaeda [in the Arabian Peninsula] is running it.” He added that the Yemeni army had sent substantial reinforcements to the area in preparation for an attack on the group, after expelling them from their main strongholds in the governorates of Shabwah and Abyan last May.
The source said: “The army’s task will be difficult because of the local residents’ support for Al-Qaeda and the difficult terrain in the area.”
A local official in Hadhramaut told Reuters that six Yemeni soldiers were killed by extremists on Monday in an attack at a checkpoint in the governorate.
AQAP has exploited the political unrest in Yemen since the toppling of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011. The group’s members have launched dozens of attacks on state institutions including army bases and government buildings, killing hundreds of people.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Houthis have demonstrated in Sana’a and other cities in protest at the lifting of fuel subsidies. The protesters called on the government to resign and be replaced by a national unity government.
Reports said hundreds of security officers were deployed in the streets of the capital, especially near President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s residence, government installations and foreign diplomatic missions. Helicopters were seen flying in the skies of the capital.
Eyewitnesses told Asharq Al-Awsat that “dozens of Houthi armed men joined the protests and passed through Interior Ministry checkpoints unobstructed.”
The Salvation Front, whose members include the Houthis and other opposition blocs, withdrew from the demonstrations and accused Houthis of “exploiting the hunger of the people to serve their own political interests.”
The latest demonstrations follow protests in recent weeks in Sana’a at raises in fuel prices and plans for cutbacks on government subsidies on other basic goods.
Meanwhile, the General People’s Congress (GPC) party said it would withdraw its ministers from the government following accusations made by Prime Minister Mohamed Salim Basindwa that the GPC coordinated with the Houthis in demonstrations against the government.
A statement by the GPC, which is led by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, demanded the establishment of a committee of legal experts to investigate allegations made by Basindwa about an intercepted telephone call between the president of the GPC and the Houthis regarding demonstrations against the government. Basindwa’s office refused to respond.
Meanwhile, the ambassadors of the 10 countries which sponsored the Gulf Initiative held a meeting in Sana’a on Monday with UN officials charged with overseeing sanctions on individuals and groups accused of destabilizing Yemen.
The Gulf Initiative was brokered by members of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2011, and included a power-transfer agreement which saw Saleh step down from office at the end of the year, paving the way for fresh elections.
Resolution 2140, which the UN Security Council adopted in February 2014, stipulates the establishment of a sanctions committee affiliated to the Security Council to monitor and facilitate the freezing of funds and issuing of travel bans, as well as investigating individuals and groups involved in actions which obstruct the transitional phase, or threaten Yemen security and stability.