Yemeni army regaining control of southern city

ADEN, Yemen — Yemen’s army is regaining control over the embattled city of Loder, a security official said on Tuesday, following days of fighting with alleged Al-Qaeda militants in which dozens were killed.

By (AFP)

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Published: Tue 24 Aug 2010, 7:39 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 5:51 AM

“Yemeni forces managed to enter the city of Loder and impose ... control over most of it after Al-Qaeda elements fled,” the official told AFP.

“We will not allow Al-Qaeda or other subversive elements allying with it to carry out acts of terror and sabotage in Loder,” he added.

Loder, in the southern province of Abyan, has been gripped by deadly clashes in which 33 people have been killed since Friday, according to an AFP count based on official and medical sources.

Eleven soldiers, 19 alleged Al-Qaeda militants and three civilians died.

In the latest fighting, “four Al-Qaeda members were killed while the rest fled after evacuating their injured,” the interior ministry said earlier on Tuesday.

“The chiefs of the terrorist elements have started to flee” Loder, a statement said.

Civilians had hurried out of the of the city in the wake of an army siege following clashes that began on Friday.

“More than 1,000 families have been displaced ... due to the chaos caused by the so-called Al-Qaeda elements,” the official said.

An army search of homes where the militants were barricaded found a large stash of weapons, including rockets and anti-tank weapons, the interior ministry said.

“Outlaw separatist elements” collaborated with Al-Qaeda in the clashes, the defence ministry said on its website. It was referring to the Southern Movement, a coalition of groups with a range of demands from economic and social improvements to full independence for the regions of former South Yemen.

Several local Al-Qaeda leaders and members were killed, some were arrested and others surrendered, reported.

Authorities said Adel Saleh Hardaba, 27, whom they described as the Al-Qaeda second-in-command in Loder, was among the dead.

Meanwhile, prominent exiled south Yemeni leader Ali Salem al-Baid condemned the government’s “massacres” in the south and appealed to “the Arab League and the United Nations to immediately intervene to investigate the Sanaa regime’s claims and violations.”

“The military campaign in Loder is aimed against our people’s resistance in the south,” Baid said in a statement on Monday.

Government allegations that it is fighting Al-Qaeda are “an attempt to cover up the massacres committed against our people,” he said.

He described it as “an excuse (by Sanaa) to gain international support ... and trying to gather international aid from countries fighting terror.”

“We reiterate our disapproval of Al-Qaeda,” he said, accusing the Yemeni government of backing the network on which it “hangs all its troubles.”

South Yemen, where many residents complain of discrimination by the Sanaa government over the allocation of resources, was independent from 1967 until 1990 when it united with the north. It launched a failed secession bid in 1994.

Witnesses said the fighting had intensified after Sunday night, when an ultimatum to militants to surrender had expired.

The army had distributed pamphlets urging any civilians left in Loder, which has a population of 80,000, to leave.

Security officials had told AFP at the weekend that civilians had mostly fled the city and that “only gunmen are left.” Many of the militants were believed to be foreigners, notably Saudis and Pakistanis.

In a separate incident, masked gunmen attacked the criminal investigations building in Zinjibar, another town in Abyan, local officials said on Tuesday. No casualties were reported.

It is feared that south Yemen, and Abyan in particular, will become a base for Al-Qaeda militants to regroup under the network’s local franchise, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Largely tribal Yemen is the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Yemeni forces have stepped up the hunt for Al-Qaeda suspects since AQAP claimed responsibility for a failed Christmas airliner bomb plot over Detroit in the United States.

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