Al-Qaeda ousted from oil-rich Yemen province: army

Updated 08 August 2017
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Al-Qaeda ousted from oil-rich Yemen province: army

ADEN: Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch has retreated from an oil-rich southern province in the face of an assault by a US-backed elite government force, a senior military official said Monday.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), seen by the US as the global network’s most dangerous franchise, has exploited Yemen’s war to expand its presence in the country’s south.
But the elite force, trained by the UAE, on Thursday launched a “major operation” against the terrorists in Shabwa province.
The group staged a “tactical retreat” from the province with no major clashes, the military official said, requesting anonymity, as he was not authorized to talk to the press.
The terrorists appear to have moved even further south into the neighboring Abyan province.
Residents of an Abyan town near the Shabwa border said they counted at least 45 cars carrying armed AQAP militants through their district.
AQAP’s Shabwa stronghold has been a focal point in a long-running American-led drone war, which has intensified since US President Donald Trump took office in January.
A US air raid on the province in June killed AQAP emir Abu Khattab Al-Awlaqi, according to the Pentagon.
Shabwa has also been the site of AQAP attacks in recent months, with the Yemen government reporting seven soldiers killed there in a suicide attack last week.
The Pentagon on Thursday confirmed that the US was helping Emirati and government forces battle AQAP in Shabwa.
The UAE, part of a Saudi-led military alliance battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, said the operation was being “closely supported by a combined UAE and US enabling force.”
Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Friday that the operation involved “a very small number” of US forces on the ground whose main task was to help the flow of information.
The assault aimed to “degrade” AQAP’s ability to coordinate terror attacks abroad, he said, adding that the US had conducted more than 80 strikes in Yemen since February 28.
US President Donald Trump ordered a special forces raid on Yemen in his first month in office which ended in the deaths of a US Navy SEAL and several Yemeni civilians in Baida province, bordering Shabwa and Abyan.
More than 8,000 people have been killed in the Yemen war since Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in 2015 to support the government against Houthi rebels who had seized the capital and swathes of the country’s north.
Yemen also faces a deadly cholera outbreak and stands at the brink of famine.
The UN has called it “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”


UN envoy due in Yemen as strains escalate with Houthi missile launch

Updated 12 min 39 sec ago
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UN envoy due in Yemen as strains escalate with Houthi missile launch

RIYADH/ADEN: The Iran-aligned Houthi movement fired missiles at the Saudi capital Riyadh late on Sunday, escalating tensions ahead of a visit by the UN envoy to Yemen this week to try to avert a military assault on the country’s main port city.
A Houthi spokesman has threatened more attacks in response to the offensive launched by a Saudi-led coalition on June 12 to seize control of Hodeidah port, long a key target, in an attempt to weaken the Houthis by cutting their main supply line.
The United Nations fears that an assault on the Red Sea port, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, could trigger a famine imperilling millions of lives.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths is due in the southern city of Aden on Wednesday for talks with ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the legitimate government’s temporary capital, government officials said.
One official said Griffiths would be there only for a few hours for talks focused on averting an assault on the port.
“There is a proposal on the table,” the foreign minister of Hadi’s government, Khaled Al-Yamani, told reporters in Riyadh.
“We would accept a peace initiative on the condition that militias leave the western coast,” he said at a joint press conference to announce a $40 million project launched by Saudi Arabia for de-mining operations in Yemen.
The Houthis have indicated they would be willing to hand over management of the port to the United Nations, sources told Reuters. A US official said Washington was urging the Saudis and Emiratis to accept the deal.
The coalition said on Monday that eight members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group had been killed in battles in the mountainous Saada region in Yemen’s northwest, which is held by the Houthis along with the capital Sanaa.
Hezbollah officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but the group has previously denied Saudi accusations that it is helping Houthi rebels.
MISSILES OVER RIYADH
Saudi air defense forces intercepted two rockets over Riyadh late on Sunday, sending debris measuring up to several meters hurtling toward residential areas.
Pieces fell near the US mission in the Saudi capital and at a school in the diplomatic quarter. Debris sparked a fire at a construction site 10 km (six miles) further south and fell on the roof of a private residence, but Saudi officials said there were no casualties.
“Our rockets will reach places that the enemy will not expect,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said. “The longer the aggression and war continue, the greater our ballistic missile capabilities.”
Coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said the alliance’s advances on Hodeidah and other fronts were pushing the Houthis to try to project strength through such attacks.
Coalition-backed forces seized Hodeidah airport last week and have been consolidating their hold in the area as more Houthi fighters, many armed with Ak-47 assault rifles, were deployed in the city and around the port.
The United Nations fears heavy fighting will worsen what is already the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis, with 22 million Yemenis dependent on aid and an estimated 8.4 million believed to be on the verge of starvation.
The Arab states say they must recapture Hodeidah to deprive the Houthis of their main source of income and prevent them from smuggling in Iranian-made missiles, accusations denied by the group and Tehran.
The coalition has pledged a swift military operation to take over the airport and seaport without entering the city center, to minimize civilian casualties and maintain the flow of goods.