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Yemeni forces regain control of city as Houthi talks falter - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A picture taken with a mobile phone early on May 24, 2014 shows Al-Qaeda militants posing with Al-Qaeda flags in front of a museum in Seiyun, second Yemeni city of Hadramawt province (AFP PHOTO / STR)

A picture taken with a mobile phone early on May 24, 2014 shows Al-Qaeda militants posing with Al-Qaeda flags in front of a museum in Seiyun, second Yemeni city of Hadramawt province (AFP PHOTO / STR)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Yemeni army regained control of the town of Seiyun in Hadhramaut province in southeast Yemen on Saturday, following an attack by insurgents from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on government and military installations there.

The attack, which was led by AQAP leader Jalal Belaid Al-Marqashi, came a month after the Yemeni military launched an offensive against AQAP strongholds in the nearby Shabwa and Abyan provinces.

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, the commander of Yemen’s military forces in the region, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Al-Sawmali, said: “Terrorists, including foreigners, attacked a number of military and civilian targets and raided banks. They were confronted by the army and security forces, who killed 16 insurgents, while 12 soldiers were killed.”

Brigadier General Sawmali added: “The city is now under control after defeating the terrorists, and we are currently pursuing those who escaped in the surrounding areas.” He said the clashes with AQAP lasted around seven hours, beginning at 11:00 pm on Friday, and ending at 6:00 am on Saturday.

Sawmali accused members of the southern secessionist movement Al-Hirak of being linked to the AQAP militants.

He said: “The armed [members of] Al-Hirak have an interest in what is taking place and I would not be surprised if there was coordination between them and the terrorists.”

Meanwhile, Yemen’s Ministry of Defense announced the identities of some of the alleged AQAP members who had been killed in the fighting. The ministry’s website said they included two Saudis, Faisal Al-Afifi and Fawaz Al-Harbi.

The Security Committee in Hadhramaut governorate said the attack on Seiyun was “a revenge attack to the painful strikes received by the Al-Qaeda organization in the Abyan and Shabwa governorates.”

It added that the attacks focused on government departments, the Central Bank of Yemen, the Post Office and the regional headquarters of the armed forces and intelligence services, and involved the use of rockets and booby-trapped vehicles.

Local residents and activists in Seiyun, which is surrounded by mountains, said they heard explosions and the sound of clashes in the city on Friday night, and saw government and military buildings on fire. Activists published photos of AQAP leader Marqashi holding the organization’s flag in front of government buildings. He reportedly became the commander of AQAP in Abyan in 2011.

Meanwhile, armed clashes continued in the province of Amran, in northern Yemen. Reports said armed members of the Houthi movement attacked a number of villages in the Ayal Sarih region, and destroyed homes of senior tribal leaders and mosques in Dhifan village.

Military sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that a meeting between the Defense Ministry and Houthi representatives in Sana’a on Saturday to discuss a ceasefire had ended without an agreement being reached.

The sources said Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed met Sheikh Saleh Al-Wajman, a representative of Houthi leader Abdelmalik Al-Houthi, and that the meeting was also attended by a mediation committee appointed by Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

According to the sources, the Houthis called for the commanders of the armed forces in the province to be replaced, as well as Governor Mohammad Hassan Damaj, a member of the Al-Islah Party.

Major General Ahmed rejected the demands on the grounds that only the president could appoint and dismiss senior officials. He also warned the Houthis not to attack military targets and to withdraw from territory the movement had seized in recent clashes. In response, Wajman accused the defense minister of “bias” and withdrew from the meeting, according to the sources.

The presidential committee announced in a press statement that Hadi had called on all parties in Amran to end the clashes, and that it was standing ready to monitor any ceasefire.