Security forces recently uncovered an al-Qaeda plot to re-take control of some areas of Abyan province, including the city of Jaar, the Yemeni Interior Ministry announced.
Security forces in June had scored a crushing blow against al-Qaeda in the province when they recaptured the organisation's previous strongholds of Jaar and Zinjibar.
Al-Qaeda's latest plan "tasked the mission to the remnants of 'Ansar al-Sharia' in Jaar and surrounding areas, as well as to terrorist elements in al-Askaria and Laabous in Lahij province," official Yemeni news agency Saba reported on Tuesday (October 23rd).
"Such a plan confirms that al-Qaeda has not benefited from the harsh lesson it was given during Operation Golden Swords," the mission launched in June to purge the organisation from Abyan, an interior ministry official told the agency.
"The bitter taste of defeat [the organisation] experienced prevented it from remembering the courageous uprising of the people of Abyan, who fought side-by-side with armed forces and security forces against terrorism and dealt [al-Qaeda] a monumental defeat," he said.
According to the ministry, the organisation's latest plan is a "suicidal adventure" and the army and people's committees are on the lookout to prevent it.
Ahmed al-Rahwi, deputy governor of Abyan province, told Al-Shorfa that some of the local population fears that al-Qaeda could return.
"The [al-Qaeda-affiliated] Ahmed Abdul Nabi group is currently situated near Jaar," he said. "They are, however, small in number, and they may be attempting to show they still exist and are a force [to be reckoned with], although the truth is otherwise," he said.
Al-Rahwi said clusters of al-Qaeda fighters who survived previous battles fled to Abyan districts such as Ahwar, al-Mahfad and al-Wadih, which are geographically connected to Marib province through Shabwa province.
"These [elements] may pose a threat," he said.
Security forces on Thursday (October 18th) killed as many as nine al-Qaeda elements in al-Jabalain near Jaar, including wanted al-Qaeda leader Nader Haidar Nasser al-Shaddadi, the Yemeni Defence Ministry announced on its website 26sep.net.
Some Ansar al-Sharia leaders who are Jaar natives may play an influential role among its population, al-Rahwi said.
"Nader al-Shaddadi, who was killed along with eight others in [the October 18th military operation], was such an influential Ansar al-Sharia leader," he said.
Al-Rahwi called for more security forces to be sent to Jaar.
"It is not sufficient to keep only the army stationed there," he said. "People do not feel safe enough and many well-to-do citizens who returned [to Jaar] from Aden after the battle ended have once more taken refuge in [Aden], though the cost of living there is higher."
Nasser Mansari, secretary-general of the local council in Khanfar directorate, whose capital is Jaar, spoke about the recent al-Qaeda plot to recapture Jaar.
"Last week, eight al-Qaeda units in the Afayni area near Jaar were spotted heading towards the al-Jabalain area," he said. "Army units and members of the people's committees pursued them but could not find them."
Remnants of Ansar al-Sharia still have a presence in the vast areas that exist in the direction of al-Hurour on the border between Abyan and Lahij provinces, he said.
"The local population is fearful, and the absence of security units to detain the outlaws makes it easier for al-Qaeda to return," though the army's 119th Infantry Brigade and local people's committees are ready to enforce security and prevent al-Qaeda from regaining control, Mansari said.
Al-Qaeda is attempting to gain the sympathy of the population and has "distributed leaflets in Lawdar directorate pleading with the population to stand by it in the name of religion", he said.
Abdul Salam Mohammed, a member of the people's committees in Jaar, said the committees will block any attempt by Ansar al-Sharia to regain control of the city.
"The people's committees are assisting in armed forces operations against al-Qaeda and are ready to block any attempt by the organisation in Jaar," he told Al-Shorfa, saying the committees' role is "to help maintain security and monitor all suspicious movements by outlaw elements".
Salem Hassan, 40, father to four children and owner of a private business in Jaar, told Al-Shorfa he suffered heavy losses after he fled to Aden last year when al-Qaeda seized control of Jaar.
"I will not repeat the mistake I made last year and will not leave my city and my home. I will fight for my property, children and city," he said, commending the people's committees for "encouraging many Jaar residents to stay in their homes, especially those who were displaced and tasted the bitter experience of living in camps for the displaced".