US closes embassy in Yemen amid al-Qaeda crackdown
search

US closes embassy in Yemen amid al-Qaeda crackdown

As part of an unprecedented offensive, Yemeni troops seize two of the terrorist group’s strongholds in the south

Yemeni troops move near the frontline of fighting with al-Qaeda militants in the province of Shabwa, Yemen, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Yemen Defense Ministry)
Yemeni troops move near the frontline of fighting with al-Qaeda militants in the province of Shabwa, Yemen, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Yemen Defense Ministry)

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.

Police stop cars at a checkpoint near the US embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, in August (photo credit: AP/Hani Mohammed)
Police stop cars at a checkpoint near the US embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, in August (photo credit: AP/Hani Mohammed)

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.

Yemeni troops gather as they take positions at the frontline of fighting with al-Qaeda militants in the southeastern province of Shabwa, Yemen, on Tuesday. (photo credit: AP/Yemen's Defense Ministry)
Yemeni troops gather near the frontline of fighting with al-Qaeda militants in the southeastern province of Shabwa, Yemen, on Tuesday. (photo credit: AP/Yemen’s Defense Ministry)

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.

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

For as little as $6 a month, you can help support our independent journalism — and enjoy special benefits and status as a Times of Israel Community member!

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Join our community
read more:
comments