Army captures Tunisian Ansar Al-Sharia militant
The checkpoint was at the Yemen Liquid Natural Gas pipeline.
Juma’a, a surgeon, is currently being held in Shabwa by the army, and he is expected to be transferred to Sana’a soon, according to a military source who requested anonymity as he is unauthorized to speak to press.
Abyan’s Counter-Terrorism Unit leader, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Al-Sawti, said in a May 10 interview with the Yemen Times that it is not uncommon for foreign nationals, including Somalis, Sudanese and Saudis, to fight in Abyan for Ansar Al-Sharia.
The Ministry of Defense said Thursday that approximately 300 Al-Qaeda militants fled to Shabwa after sustaining major losses in Abyan.
On Tuesday, the army recaptured towns in Abyan under Al-Qaeda control since May 2011. The towns included Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan, Jaar and the port of Shuqra on the Arabian Sea.
When the army asked Juma’a why he came to Yemen, he said, “They told me to come to fight the Americans in Yemen.”
After a military intelligence official asked if he found Americans in Yemen, Juma’a said, “No.”
30 Al-Qaeda militants killed
Juma’a was captured after violent clashes Thursday evening that began at 5 p.m. and lasted nearly four hours. Al-Qaeda attacked a security checkpoint controlled by the second infantry-Marine Brigade at Bafakhsos station in Balhaf.
The troops fought off the militants, killing 30 and seizing three Al-Qaeda vehicles, including an ambulance, a car and a minibus, according to the military source.
Four military personnel were injured. The other militants fled on foot to Azzan, Al-Qaeda’s stronghold in Shabwa, where another Yemeni member of Ansar Al-Sharia from Lawdar was captured.
Military enforcements sent to Shabwa
An official at the Ministry of Defense said Saturday that a military campaign is already underway to pursue Al-Qaeda militants who fled from Abyan to Azzan.
A military source in Shabwa said during a phone conversation that on Friday, they received a military enforcement of troops and heavy weapons, including tanks and military vehicles, from Al-Mukalla in Hadramout.
Yemeni-American airstrikes escalate in Azzan
While Yemeni troops were fighting with Ansar Al-Sharia over the gas pipeline, a U.S. drone strike hit Azzan, the last stronghold of Al-Qaeda in Shabwa.
On Friday, the Yemeni air forces carried out several air raids targeting Azzan, according to the military source.
A local source in Azzan said the armed Islamists are planning to hand over the city to local defense fighters instead of the army.
However, a military source in Shabwa said, “This is just a tactic by Al-Qaeda to deceive the army in order to retaliate their loss.”