Ansar Al-Sharia militants withdraw from Zinjibar and Jaar to port of Shuqra
Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan in the south of Yemen, was for the past year a devastated area inhabited only by Ansar Al-Sharia militants. Residents of Zinjibar forced to flee to Lahj and Aden are homeless and suffer dire conditions.
Ansar Al-Sharia militants took control of Zinjibar last year after the military withdrew. They proclaimed Zinjibar and Jaar two Islamic emirates. Ansar Al-Sharia changed the name of Jaar to Waqar, and ruled the towns according to their interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.
Jamal Al-Aqel, governor of Abyan, said in a statement to the Yemen Times that Zinjibar and Jaar are totally purged of militants. He added that about 300 militants fled from Zinjibar on Tuesday towards the port city of Shuqra, which is still under their control.
Shuqra is thought to be the gateway for Somalian Al Shabaab fighters coming to Abyan to support Ansar Al-Sharia.
Al-Aqel claimed that the military and the people’s committees are on their way to taking control of Shuqra from Ansar Al-Sharia and force them entirely out of Abyan.
Al-Aqel considered the victory of the military in Zinjibar and Abyan a historical achievement for all Yemenis. He pointed out that many residents returned to Zinjibar on Tuesday and were very glad that the military was once again in control.
The problem facing residents who want to come back to Zinjibar is landmines which Ansar Al-Sharia laid around the town, according to Al-Aqel. He added that a specialized team started the process of demining, but they are not enough. He urged the government to send more experts to the area.
Al-Aqel demanded that the government intervene quickly and establish an operations room to take care of the residents in Abyan and help in reconstruction.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Defense announced formally that the military recaptured Zinjibar and Jaar. Moreover, it declared that it had commenced a new operation called “Golden Swords,” aimed at forcing the militants out of areas they are still holding.
Local sources said that Ansar Al-Sharia militants distributed flyers to the residents of Zinjibar and Jaar before withdrawing. The flyers say that they are withdrawing to lessen bloodshed, particularly in Waqar (the name Ansar Al-Sharia militants use for Jaar) and to prevent the military from destroying the town, as happened in Zinjibar.
Nabeel Al-Bokairy, specialist in the Islamic movements, was skeptical of the withdrawal of Ansar Al-Sharia from Zinjibar and Jaar. He pointed out that Ansar Al-Sharia aren’t an organized army, but fighters specialized in guerrilla war. Therefore, their withdrawal can be seen as a military tactic.
Al- Bokairy expects that Ansar Al-Sharia will begin fighting again, but with different tactics such as surprise attacks against military camps and other government facilities.