Al Qaeda retreats from Yemen’s Jaar but remains in Zinjibar

Only one day after capturing southern Yemeni towns of Jaar, Zinjibar Al Qaeda has retreated from Jaar on Thursday

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Members of the pro-government Popular Committees Militia inspect a car at a checkpoint on a road leading to Yemen's southern province of Abyan December 2, 2015

Local residents stated on Thursday that the Al Qaeda militants retreated from the recently captured town of Jaar, allowing Yemeni police to regain control.

Al Qaeda captured two major southern Yemeni towns of Zinjibar and Jaar on Wednesday. The two towns were also briefly in Al Qaeda’s hands four years ago.

Al Qaeda withdrew from Jaar after blowing up the house of the commander of a local tribal militia group, the residents said.

Jaar and Zinjibar are the capital of Abyan province, about 50 km (30 miles) east of the main port city of Aden.

The militants withdrew quietly from Jaar and regrouped at an old ammunition factory 25-30 km (15-20 miles) away, residents said.

"It seems they had withdrawn from the city at night, and all is quiet now," resident Mohammed Suhail told Reuters by telephone. A local police source also said that the police were back in control.

Yemeni Al Qaeda militants, also known as Ansar al Sharia, took over Jaar in an early morning surprise attack, exploiting the collapse of central authority due to the Yemen's civil war.

When Al Qaeda took the towns in 2011, the Arab spring was in full blossom in Yemen and eventually led to the ousting of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the militants took advantage of Yemeni authorities neglecting the area and captured the towns. The Yemeni Army drove Al Qaeda out of the towns one year later.

Al Qaeda remains in Zinjibar

Al Qaeda is currently in Zinjibar, which is about 10 km (6 miles) south of Jaar, residents said that Al Qaeda militants were briefly deployed on the ground on the day they captured the village.

But residents said Al Qaeda has had a significant presence in the town for a long time, without fully controlling it. The residents also said Al Qaeda militants are mostly tribesmen who have helped local fighters fend off attempts by the Iranian backed Houthis to advance in the area earlier this year.

Yemen is suffering from an eight-month long war, which started in March 2015 when Yemeni President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi called on neighbouring Saudi Arabia to "save Yemen" from the Houthi rebels.

Iranian backed Houthis have been battling against the Saudi-led coalition, in which the UAE and several Arab countries are playing a major role. As a result of Houthi aggression, Yemeni President Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi had to temporarily move to the Saudi capital Riyadh.

War in the country has triggered an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The UN has declared the situation in Yemen to be a level-three humanitarian emergency, the highest on its scale, after about 80 percent of the country’s population fell into dire need of humanitarian aid.

TRTWorld and agencies