Yemen's al-Qaida seizes local airport, air defense base

April 17, 2015 10:02 am 

ADEN, Yemen, April 17 — Scores of well-armed gunmen of the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch seized an air defense base and a local airport after clashes with security forces in Yemen's southeastern province of Hadramout on Thursday evening, a government official told Xinhua.

"The al-Qaida gunmen launched an offensive against a number of military bases including the 27th Armored Brigade and took over control of the air defense base along with the Rayan local airport in the coastal city of Mukalla, Hadramout's provincial capital," the local government official said on condition of anonymity.

"The al-Qaida gunmen were then heavily deployed inside and around the Rayan local airport," the source said, adding that "all the troops tasked with guarding the government facilities in Mukalla have retreated."

A local tribal chief in Mukalla city told Xinhua that "local officials and tribal mediators are negotiating with al-Qaida commanders in order to let them hand over the airport to local authorities peacefully."

At the same time, local security sources confirmed to Xinhua that fierce fighting erupted between army units and al-Qaida members at Dhabah oil terminal located in Shihr area of Hadramout province.

The al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) group took advantage of the country's current political conflicts and advanced in Yemen's southeastern province of Hadramout by taking control over several military bases during the past few weeks.

Earlier this month, scores of al-Qaida members launched coordinated attacks on government institutions and the central prison in Mukalla city, freeing more than 300 prisoners, including top commanders.

Yemen, an impoverished Arab country, has been gripped by one of the most active regional al-Qaida insurgencies in the Middle East.

The AQAP, which emerged in January 2009 and is known locally as Ansar al-Sharia, had claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on Yemen's army and government institutions. (PNA/Xinhua)

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