AL-MUKALLA: Heavy clashes between suspected Al-Qaeda militants and Yemeni security forces in the province of Dhale have left 10 people, including two officers and seven militants, dead, local officials and media reports said.
A local security official told Arab News that fighting erupted on Friday evening inside the headquarters of the government’s Security Belt forces, north of Dhale city, after a group of arrested Al-Qaeda militants refused to lay down their arms and began shooting at security forces.
“The forces that arrested those militants made a mistake by not disarming them immediately after arresting them and allowed them to carry weapons till they reached the headquarters,” the security official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.
When security forces asked the militants to hand over weapons to be allowed to enter the building, they began throwing grenades and opened fire with machine guns, triggering heavy clashes and explosions.
Waled Saleh Hasan Al-Dhami, deputy commander of the Security Belt in Dhale, and Mohammed Yahiya Al-Shubaji, commander of a counterterrorism unit, were among those killed.
Another soldier died along with seven militants, while at least six troops were wounded in the fighting, the official said.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as AQAP, has been significantly weakened during the past six years after local military and security forces, trained and armed by the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, pushed them out of their major havens and strongholds, and killed and arrested dozens of fighters.
The militants’ deadly attacks have largely decreased and their attempts to return to southern provinces have been foiled.
Separately, the UN Yemen envoy, Hans Grundberg, welcomed the coalition’s release of Houthi war prisoners announced on Friday and urged the Yemeni parties to step up efforts to achieve another prisoner swap that could see hundreds of Yemeni rejoin their families.
“Last month, the parties agreed through my office on another exchange of detainees. I urge the parties to agree on the details of the release so that Yemeni families may be reunited as soon as possible,” the UN official said tweeted.
“This will be an important step toward fulfilling commitments made in Stockholm to release all conflict-related detainees.”
In a goodwill gesture to pave the way for an end to the war, the coalition said on Friday that it was releasing 163 Houthi war prisoners, including foreign nationals, and transporting them to Aden and Sanaa in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The internationally recognized government of Yemen agreed to receive most of the freed prisoners in Aden after the Houthis refused to recognize them as their prisoners.