International

Yemen president visits former Qaeda bastion

ADEN: Yemen’s President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi visited Mukalla on the southeast coast on Sunday, an official said, his first trip there since loyalist forces retook it from Al-Qaeda in April.

Hadi and Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher met political and military officials from across Mukalla’s Hadramawt province, the official said.

The president praised efforts in the province to “eradicate the forces of evil and terrorism” and bring “security and stability” back to Mukalla.

Quoted by the official news agency Saba, Hadi stressed the need to “tighten our ranks to meet the challenges we face”, a reference to Al-Qaeda fighters still active across the vast province.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government has been based in second city Aden since it was retaken from Shiite Huthi rebels last year.

Retaking Mukalla was facilitated by the intervention of Emirati special forces, members of a Saudi-led coalition that backs Hadi’s government.

A local official survived an assassination attempt on Sunday in Shibam, around 100 kilometres (65 miles) north of Mukalla, in an attack security sources blamed on Al-Qaeda.

They said Faraj Neji survived an ambush but two of his guards were killed.

Loyalist forces have been struggling to secure territory taken by the Huthis since the summer of 2015.

A military official said Sunday that five rebels were killed in a coalition air raid in the southern Shabwa province.

Also in Shabwa, three armed tribesman were killed in an ambush by fighters belonging to the Yemeni branch of Al-Qaeda, security officials said.

Yemen’s conflict has allowed militant organisations including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group to expand, mainly in the country’s vast desert east.

In the north, a Saudi soldier was killed in a cross-border firefight with rebels, the interior ministry in Riyadh said on Sunday.

A border post was attacked overnight by Huthis, a spokesman said, adding that a soldier wounded in the exchange died before reaching hospital.

He was the latest of at least 111 Saudi soldiers and civilians to be killed in the country’s south since the kingdom launched a coalition to battle the Yemeni insurgents in March 2015.

The Yemen conflict has killed some 7,000 people since the Saudi-led intervention, according to the United Nations.

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