Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Dozens of members of Al-Qaeda have been killed in a military operation which began a week ago in southern Yemen, according to a military source.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat that around 37 armed insurgents were killed in fighting on Sunday and a number of military vehicles were destroyed. The source added that most of the insurgents were foreign nationals, including Saudis, Afghans, Somalis, Chechens and others.
More than 60 Al-Qaeda members have reportedly been killed in the clashes in Shabwa and Abyan governorates which have been ongoing for a week. The Yemeni army is fighting against Al-Qaeda in a number of areas including Dhi Na’im in the Al-Bayda Governorate, where the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Al-Shari’a fighters are based.
The source called on members of the public not to give terrorists shelter and not to allow them into their villages or homes.
Meanwhile, Yemeni Defense Minister, Maj. Gen. Mohamed Nasser Ahmed, called on the people of Abyan and Shabwa in particular, and Yemen in general, to “support the armed forces to rid the country of terrorists, most of whom came from abroad to carry out a hostile agenda against the Yemeni people.”
A source in Shabwa said “military units in the Ataq area, which is under the control of the Third Military Region, cleared the areas of Mafraq Al-Sa’id, Husat Al-Laban, Al-Karif and others in the Shabwa Governorate.”
The Defense Ministry also said that its forces have “taken control of the main road linking Hadhramaut with Shabwa and Abyan.”
The Ministry’s website also quoted the commander of the Ataq area as saying the military operation would continue and move towards Habban.
Meanwhile, another military source told Reuters that a suicide attacker driving a booby-trapped car killed six soldiers near their position in Shabwa on Sunday, one of the areas where the army was fighting Al-Qaeda. The source added that the attack also injured 20 soldiers.
Attacks on army and security forces have been on the increase in south Yemen since the launch of the army operation last week to destroy local Al-Qaeda cells.
Western states fear the lack of stability in Yemen offers the organization’s local branch, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the opportunity to attack targets outside Yemen.
Washington has been launching drone attacks for a number of years to kill members and leaders of the organization. A number of drone attacks took place in southern governorates last month, and killed 65 Al-Qaeda fighters, according to Yemeni authorities, together with a number of civilian bystanders.
Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi said last week that 70 percent of Al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen were foreign nationals. The organization later denied the claim.