Ansar Al-Sharia militants flee Azzan
“Some fled to Al-Hawta district in Shabwa, while others shaved their beards and traveled as normal citizens to Al-Jawf and Mareb,” the military source said.
The Defense Ministry announced Saturday that the army recaptured Azzan after Al-Qaeda militants captured the city in early June 2011.
Azzan is the hometown of Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was killed in September 2011 by a U.S. drone strike. The city, which has been a hideout for militants with links to Al-Qaeda, has been subject to several air raids by Yemeni forces and by U.S. drones.
Militants fled Abyan to Azzan earlier this month after the Yemeni military achieved what they describe as a victory over Ansar Al-Sharia in Abyan, in southern Yemen. The military claims most of the region is now militant-free.
President Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi issued several decrees Friday, granting badges of courage to military units, the Peoples’ Committees and civilian fighters for their part in battling Ansar Al-Sharia.
Residents were able to return to Zinjibar and Jaar this week.
Moreover, several officials have now visited Abyan governorate, included Ahmed Al-Ansi, the Yemen’s Minister of Public Health, who arrived with a team of landmine specialists.
However, now that the military controls Abyan and Azzan, some say a new phase of war with Ansar Al-Sharia will begin.
Adel Ameen, a Yemeni columnist and a political analyst, said the military can’t fully remove Al-Qaeda from Yemen. He considers recent events as a first phase of confrontations.
There will be a second phase of battles between the military and Ansar Al-Sharia militants, and it will differ from the first phase, he said. Instead of confrontations, the militants will fight a guerrilla war, carrying out different attacks against the military and vital institutions.
Ameen said he expects battles to spread to Marib, Hadramout and Shabwa governorates. He said Beida’a is the probable governorate for future clashes between the military and Ansar Al-Sharia.
Ahmed Saleh Al-Faqih, a columnist and a political analyst said great victories will be achieved by the military if it continues pursuing militants. He said that if the military stops, the militants will reunite and control new areas.
Arafat Madabish, editor-in-chief of Al Tagheer Net News, said the remaining militants, be they leaders or fighters, will resort to hiding before renewing battles.
Madabish said the military and the Peoples’ Committees won’t stop fighting Ansar Al-Sharia. If the militants started fighting the military in other governorates, then they will be digging their own grave, he said.
Security procedures increased in almost in all governorates following the military control in Abyan.
On Thursday, the ministry of interior said, “It is expected that Ansar Al-Sharia militants will resort to carrying out vindictive terrorist attacks.”
The minister said security procedures are in effect to counter these threats. A security belt was imposed around Sana’a, and security guards were deployed around vital institutions, including embassies, foreigners’ houses and foreign institutions.
It is reported that Ansar Al-Sharia carried out several surprise attacks against military checkpoints in different governorates last year, killing tens of soldiers. Ansar Al-Sharia also claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack that killed more than 100 soldiers during military drills in preparation for the May 22 National Unity Day celebration.