The US State Department says it has closed its embassy to the public in Yemen due to recent attacks against Western interests.
There was no specific threat cited Wednesday against the US Embassy in the capital of Sanaa, and a US official said no American personnel have been evacuated.
The closure was expected to be temporary and only affects services to the public, including visa processing.
The US official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation by name.
Yemeni troops seized two al-Qaeda strongholds in the country’s south Tuesday after a dayslong offensive that left dozens of troops and suspected militants dead, the country’s Defense Ministry said.
The troops, backed by pro-government tribesmen, swept through the strongholds in the Mahfad region, the ministry said in a statement. The area saw heavy airstrikes over the past weeks on a suspected major al-Qaeda base that included training grounds and weapons storehouses, tucked deep into the rugged mountains between Abyan and Shabwa provinces.
Militants bombed a government complex before they fled the center of the district at dawn, the ministry said, but did not provide details.
Later in the day, the ministry said its forces have for the first time in years gained control of another al-Qaeda hideout in the district of Haban and Qarn al-Sawad in the mountains of Shabwa. The takeover of Haban comes after days of heavy bombardment and clashes, but the number of casualties was not immediately known.
Along with the offensive, the military is reaching out to tribes in the areas of Abyan and Shabwa to expel al-Qaeda militants.
According to local officials and tribesmen, the military warned tribal leaders against sheltering al-Qaeda militants and said it was prepared to stop its offensive if they persuade tribe members affiliated to al-Qaeda to hand over their arms or leave. The officials said that the military plans to redeploy its forces to have a permanent force in these places to prevent al-Qaeda militants from making a comeback. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
The ministry also said in its statement that forces killed three wanted al-Qaeda figures. One of them, nicknamed Picasso, was notorious for killing and mutilating his victims, usually those suspected to be informing police on militants’ whereabouts, the ministry said, without providing his real name. Two others were identified as suspected al-Qaeda operatives named Nasser Atef al-Makni and his brother Ahmed.
Yemen has been struggling for years with al-Qaeda’s branch here, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. During a yearlong uprising in 2011 that eventually overthrew longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh, al-Qaeda militants seized control of several towns and districts in the south, exploiting the security vacuum. They were driven out a year later by Yemeni forces backed by US airstrikes.