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AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni security forces, backed by the Arab coalition, killed three Al-Qaeda militants and captured two others in a raid on their hideout on Friday in Al-Ghaydah city, the capital of the western province of Mahra, local media and residents said.

Large explosions rocked many districts in the city of Al-Ghaydah on Friday morning as security forces raided a building, triggering a gunfire battle.

“The explosions began shaking the city at nearly 2.30 a.m. and lasted for nine hours,” a resident who preferred to remain anonymous told Arab News by telephone, adding that security authorities sealed off the area, preventing people from leaving their homes.

Army troops and security forces also intensified security measures and checkups at the province’s main entrances. Local media said that when security forces were about to storm the building, an Al-Qaeda militant blew up his explosive-laden belt, killing himself and two others.

Two other militants surrendered during the raid, local media reported. Mohammed Ali Yasser, the governor of Mahra, did not answer Arab News calls.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen, also known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP, has suffered fatal blows since early 2016 when Arab coalition-backed Yemeni forces pushed them out of their main strongholds in southern Yemen after killing a large number of their operatives. In 2015, the militants cashed in on the anarchy and security vacuum that ensued from the earlier military expansion of the Iranian-backed Houthis to seize control of the main cities in southern Yemen, including the city of Al-Mukalla, the capital of the southeastern province of Hadramout.

Prisoner swap
The internationally recognized government and pro-independence Southern Transitional Council (STC) on Thursday swapped dozens of prisoners who were captured during fighting this year.

A local army officer told Arab News that the army released 21 separatists in exchange for 37 army soldiers, including Brig. Sayf Al-Ghoufesh, the commander of 115 Brigade in Abyan. “The prisoner swap took place in Sheikh Salem area in Abyan following a successful mediation,” the officer said.

In May, a major offensive by army troops triggered heavy fighting with STC forces in the southern province of Abyan and led to the death of dozens of troops on both sides. Despite the heavy fighting, neither the army nor the separatists managed to make any major military breakthrough. A Saud-led military committee is currently in the contested areas in Abyan to monitor a cease-fire agreed under the Riyadh Agreement.

Yemeni Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Mohammad Ali Al-Maqdashi said on Thursday that army troops and allied tribesmen were determined to foil Iranian designs in Yemen and put an end to the Houthi coup against the internationally recognized government.

Inspecting liberated areas in the northern province of Jouf, Al-Maqdashi thanked the Arab coalition for its military support to the Yemeni army, adding that tribesmen in Marib, Jouf and Al-Bayda have shored up army troops in their continuing battle against the Houthis.

“Today we are more confident that our people will prevail and the Houthis and the Iranian project will not survive,” Al-Maqdashi said, according to the official news agency SABA.


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