The Yemeni Ministry of Defence announced Saturday (October 1st) that armed forces in the southern military region had purged large sections of the city of Zinjibar of al-Qaeda, the capital of Abyan province which the organisation had controlled since May
Officials also said that the army was able to seize the Bajadar district and its outskirts in the northern part of the city.
The ministry said tribesmen in Abyan province participated in the operation and are continuing their efforts to purge all of Zinjibar of terrorist elements.
The ministry said al-Qaeda suffered heavy losses in lives and materiel during the latest confrontations. Officials also said three soldiers were killed, and 10 were wounded in the operation.
Ahmed al-Rahwi, deputy governor of Abyan province, told Al-Shorfa the army recaptured all government buildings, including the Political Security Service building in the city, which was used by terrorists as a prison. The army succeeded in purging Zinjibar of terrorists almost entirely during operations on Sunday and Monday.
"Central Security Forces along with General Security Forces entered the city and re-established control. The army's purge operation reached the Bajadar district and its outskirts in the northern part of the city towards the Amoudiyah area and Jaar," al-Rahwi said.
Al-Qaeda fighters fled the city because of the intensity of the conflict, particularly after the army entered Amoudiyah with heavy weapons.
Al-Rahwi said that military air operations are ongoing, adding that one air raid targeted al-Razi hospital in the city of Jaar that al-Qaeda used as its headquarters, killing and wounding several terrorists.
Local media reports stated 30 soldiers from the 119th Infantry Brigade were killed in an errant air strike. Al-Rahwi refuted the reports saying, "The Khawla school in north Bajadar was targeted by the army when it was occupied by al-Qaeda fighters before the army captured it", which was confirmed by the defence ministry in a statement.
Officials acknowledged the need to begin restoration of Zinjibar.
"The task now lies in the removal of mines and booby traps planted by al-Qaeda fighters and restoring water and electricity services to a minimum level so citizens can return," al-Rahwi said. He said that the reconstruction effort is dependent upon solving the political crisis between the government and the political opposition because state resources and public co-operation are needed to begin the rebuilding process.
Abdo al-Janadi, deputy minister of information, told Al-Shorfa that 90% of Zinjibar districts were cleared but added a word of caution.
"Despite that victory, al-Qaeda still exists and the battle will continue until all remaining al-Qaeda pockets are eliminated," he said. "The war against al-Qaeda will continue until all objectives are completed, including purging all areas of Abyan of terrorist elements."
Vice President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi told Robin Searby, the British Prime Minister's adviser on counterterrorism for North Africa, in a Monday telephone call that Yemen will continue its campaign against al-Qaeda and that fighting is ongoing in Abyan. He said that the armed forces and Abyan citizens "continue their mission to purge Zinjibar of terrorist elements until all areas of Yemen are purged of this extremist terrorist organization that harmed Yemeni interests and threatens international peace and security".
Abdullah Amarem, an Abyan resident and a leader in the ruling Congress Party, said despite the armed forces' successful operations, it will be a long time before citizens can return to their homes.
"We have lost hope of returning to our towns and villages in Abyan after the damage caused by the terrorist elements. Despite the army's successes, the return of citizens is still far off in the future because al-Qaeda destroyed the province and its infrastructure which complicates the return process and makes it almost impossible to do under the current circumstances," he said.