AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni troops have announced they have taken control of a large valley in Abyan’s southern province from Al-Qaeda, forcing its fighters to abandon their hiding spots and training facilities.
Mohammed Al-Naqeeb, a spokesperson for the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council, said forces had retaken control of the long and steep Omaran valley in the governorate, and were now working to defuse landmines and explosive devices to allow people to return to their villages.
“We have removed all terrorist elements from the valley, forcing them to flee to other mountains. We won’t let them surge again,” Al-Naqeeb said.
The announcement came a day after the same military forces announced the expulsion of Al-Qaeda militants from a major military facility in the Omaran valley, where they hid hostages, prepared explosive-rigged cars, and plotted deadly attacks on government targets in liberated areas.
Southern military forces last week crossed into Al-Qaeda strongholds in southern provinces, in a military offensive aimed at expelling militants from remote rural areas in Abyan and Shabwa.
After the demining mission in the Omaran valley is complete, Al-Naqeeb said forces will go to highland and valley regions in the neighboring Mahfad district in Abyan to pursue Al-Qaeda fighters.
He said: “We will announce the full liberation of Abyan from Al-Qaeda once terrorists are purged from Mahfad.”
The ongoing military operations in Abyan and Shabwa were launched early last week following a string of assaults on government forces in southern provinces that resulted in the deaths of dozens of soldiers and the kidnapping of citizens and foreign aid workers.
Yemeni officials say Al-Qaeda militants planned the operations and trained suicide bombers in military bases in valleys such as Omaran.
Yemeni journalists and activists urged the country’s people, the media and the international community to support the ongoing military operations to neutralize the threat of terrorist organizations.
Fatehi bin Lazerq, editor of Aden Al-Ghad, said the international community should support any efforts by the Yemeni government, the STC, and the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen to rid the region of groups such as Al-Qaeda, the Houthis, and Daesh.
“The fight against these extremists must be free of any calculations, tendencies or political orientations. Al-Qaeda poses a threat to society as a whole,” Bin Lazerq said.
He added that state bodies should be reactivated and security forces permanently deployed in former Al-Qaeda strongholds, stressing the need to organize widespread awareness campaigns and provide employment opportunities for the local population.
“To effectively fight terrorism, a real environment must be created through education, the creation of job opportunities for young people, and the establishment of real mechanisms preventing them from traveling to terrorist hotspots,” he said.