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AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni military forces have recaptured a major military installation and surrounding mountains in southern Abyan province from al-Qaeda, consolidating gains made against militants in their strongholds.

Mohammed al-Naqeeb, military spokesman for the Southern Transitional Council for Independence, said. Arabic news that their forces have taken full control of a large military base used by al-Qaeda militants in Abyan’s Omaran Valley.

Trenchers scoured the valley for mines and improvised explosive devices that may have been planted by militants.

“This is an international military facility of Al-Qaeda. We discovered a number of mortar shells, ammunition and improvised explosive devices in the camp,” Al-Naqeeb said, adding that a permanent military force would be deployed in the valley to prevent al-Qaeda from resuming operations.

Last week, pro-independence Yemeni forces launched an offensive in Abyan and Shabwa provinces to root out al-Qaeda from the region, including the mountain range that connects the two provinces to the Houthi-controlled al-Bayda.

For the first time in years, government forces managed to attack al-Qaeda hideouts and military facilities in Al-Musinah, Shabwa province, as well as Omaran.

Al-Naqeeb said two soldiers were killed and many others were injured in the past forty-eight hours. The militants detonated 25 improvised explosive devices along the road to prevent their advance.

After securing the liberated areas in Omaran, government forces will move to Al-Mahfad, another long-term al-Qaeda hideout in Abyan.

Al Qaeda-linked accounts posted statements on social media disputing government claims that troops were advancing into Omaran, responding that they had attacked government bases, detonated bombs and prevented government forces from taking control of the valley.

Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has been severely weakened by a lack of leadership, financial problems, competition with Daesh – which has courted al Qaeda operatives – and major military operations, according to terrorism experts.

Saeed Obeid al-Jemhi, a Yemeni counter-terrorism expert, explained that a weakened al-Qaeda would only use guerrilla tactics to face growing government forces, adding that the militant group had resorted to kidnappings to fill its empty coffers.

“The organization has found itself in a situation that prevents it from reacting other than through defensive operations, such as placing bombs on the road or targeting military barricades,” Al-Jemhi said.

This text is a translation of an article published on Arabnews.com

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