​Al-Qaeda militants capture military base in southeast Yemen

Al Qaeda fighters  (Reuters / Stringer)

Al Qaeda fighters (Reuters / Stringer)

Suspected Al-Qaeda fighters have seized a major army base in the southeastern city of Mukalla, a military official said. The city is now almost entirely under the jihadists’ control.

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The Sunni extremists
stormed and took control of the headquarters of the 2nd Military
Region on Friday afternoon “without resistance” an
unnamed official told AFP.

According to a Reuters report citing residents and local
officials, the militants killed at least five soldiers and
ransacked the base’s ammunition store.

The regional commander and his troops reportedly fled the base
and withdrew to military camps around the airport, one of the few
remaining areas not controlled by Al-Qaeda. As well as setting
fire to the local broadcasting station, the Sunni fighters
reportedly also raided local banks and government buildings.

The previous day, the extremists broke into a Mukalla prison and
liberated some 300 inmates, including a man identified as
prominent local Al-Qaeda leader Khaled Batarfi. They also
captured the city’s port and called for “jihad against
from local mosques, according to residents.

The fall of Mukalla, a port town on the Arabian sea, comes as the
fighting rages on between the Houthis, a Shiite rebel group who
have seized control of much of the country in recent months, and
loyalists of ousted Yemeni President Mansour Hadi.

Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Gulf countries have staged a
military intervention designed to reinstate Hadi as the rightful
leader in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition has been launching
airstrikes on rebel strongholds throughout the country since last
week, and is reportedly mulling a ground invasion.

READ MORE: Over 500 killed in two weeks of chaos in Yemen – UN

Observers note that the escalation of hostilities and mounting
chaos in Yemen have provided Al-Qaeda with an opportunity to
strengthen the extremist organization’s presence there.

“It is a golden opportunity for Al-Qaeda to take advantage of
the anarchy spreading in the whole country now,”
Abdel Bari
Atwan, the former editor-in-chief of Al Quds told RT. “I
believe that Al-Qaeda will be the greatest beneficiary from this
kind of anarchy.”

Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been classified
by the US as the network’s deadliest branch.

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