Yemeni pro-government forces have carried out a series of raids against al-Qaeda in the southern port city of Aden, arresting dozens of suspects and causing the militants to flee from key areas, a top security official said Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. Shalal Shayaa, Aden's security chief, said that southern fighters backing the government have set up checkpoints across the al-Mansoura neighborhood, a former militant stronghold. Shayaa later toured al-Mansoura on foot, reassuring residents and checking security patrols, according to witnesses.
Shayaa said the raids are part of a campaign aimed at consolidating the internationally-recognized government's control over Aden, its de facto capital. Shia militias known as Houthis seized the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in 2014. Aden was plunged into lawlessness after government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition drove the Houthis out last year.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, long seen by Washington as the most dangerous branch of the global network, has exploited the turmoil in Yemen and expanded its reach, seizing entire cities along the coastline of the Arabian Sea.
US drones have carried out a series of airstrikes in recent days, killing dozens of militants.
On Wednesday, officials and witnesses said U.S. drones struck vehicles and gathering points for the militants in the southern city of Azzan, as well as training camps in Hadramawt, Yemen's largest province. Earlier this month the drones killed more than 40 militants, including new recruits, in the province.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.
In addition to al-Qaeda, the government has also been battling Islamic State militants, who have carried out a series of deadly suicide bombings in Aden and assassinated top officials, including a former governor.