Saudi-led strikes push Qaeda out of Yemen town

AFP , Tuesday 9 Aug 2016

Air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition have forced Al-Qaeda fighters out of a key town in southern Yemen, a security official said on Tuesday.

"Al-Qaeda militants have withdrawn from Azzan, the second city in Shabwa province, after coalition raids targeted their gatherings in the city" on Monday night, the official told AFP.

A resident said by telephone that the militants had retreated northwards and "no longer have a presence" in Azzan.

Saudi Arabia's coalition backs the Yemeni government against Huthi Shiite rebels supported by Iran, and late Monday resumed air strikes around the insurgent-held capital for the first time in three months.

Those strikes, which intensified Tuesday, come less than 72 hours after the suspension of UN-brokered talks in Kuwait between Yemen's warring parties.

Coalition warplanes have also targeted Islamic State group jihadists who have exploited the chaos in the Arabian Peninsula state to expand their presence in south and southeast Yemen.

Al-Qaeda militants are still present elsewhere in Shabwa and in other southern regions, however.

Their withdrawal from Azzan followed a series of coalition air raids against their positions in the town, security officials and residents said.

The coalition has backed government troops who recaptured the southeastern port city of Mukalla in April, a year after it was seized by Al-Qaeda.

Azzan lies on the highway between Shabwa's provincial capital Ataq and Mukalla, capital of the vast desert province of Hadramawt.

Jihadists had previously seized Azzan in February, retreated in April and later returned to the town.

The United States has also waged a drone war against the jihadists Yemen for years.

Officials said that the US military on Thursday killed three Al-Qaeda operatives in a strike in Shabwa.

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