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Yemeni tribesmen in Abyan province captured "the al-Qaeda emir of Modia" following clashes that left nine al-Qaeda members dead, the Yemeni Ministry of Defence announced Monday (November 21st).
According to the ministry's website, two tribesmen in Modia, a directorate of Abyan province, were killed and two others were wounded Monday by a roadside bomb.
Mohamed al-Tahati, head of the Modia directorate, told Al-Shorfa that the death of the two citizens prompted the popular committees -- groups comprised of local tribesmen -- to clash with the al-Qaeda militants responsible for planting the bomb.
The tribesmen killed three al-Qaeda gunmen and laid siege to the house of Abdul Ilah al-Thahiri, "the al-Qaeda emir of Modia". They then killed six of his aides and wounded four others before detaining al-Thahiri, according to al-Tahati.
"Al-Thahiri was leading a sleeper cell in Modia and was in permanent hiding after the Modia directorate was cleared of [al-Qaeda] elements in a military campaign over a year ago," al-Tahati said. "The tribesmen rose up to protect themselves and their property from the ravages of al-Qaeda to prevent what happened in Jaar and Zinjibar from occurring."
Dr. Saeed Obaid al-Jamhi, president of al-Jamhi Centre for Studies and Research, told Al-Shorfa that al-Thahiri's arrest represents a new blow to the organisation, and that it came through citizen co-operation with security officials.
Al-Jamhi said the government's support of popular committees will contribute greatly to successful future campaigns against al-Qaeda.
"Government forces prefer to capture organisation members so they can obtain information from their confessions and find out about al-Qaeda's future plans," he said.
Ahmed al-Rahwi, deputy governor of Abyan, praised the work of the popular committees in capturing al-Thahiri.
"This indicates that the people sense their responsibilities after the devastation and destruction that took place in Zinjibar and Jaar. They fear that al-Qaeda could move to their directorate and repeat the scenario of establishing an Islamic emirate everywhere in Abyan province," he said.
Al-Rahwi said al-Qaeda seeks to control Abyan for several reasons, notably its strategic location. Abyan shares a border with Aden and Lahaj provinces to the west and Shabwa and Hadramaut to the east. The province overlooks the coast and is close to international shipping lanes.
Abdo al-Janadi, Yemeni Deputy Minister of Information, said during a press conference Sunday that 300 al-Qaeda members are in the neighbouring province of al-Baida and could target the province and plan to control it.
He said government officials are aware of al-Qaeda's plans and will not allow the organisation to seize additional cities.
Al-Janadi said that during the past two weeks, army soldiers killed 38 al-Qaeda members in Abyan, including Somalis, Saudis, Egyptians, Iranians and Pakistanis.
"The battle with al-Qaeda is a long battle requiring high-level skills and technologies," he said. "The state will fight terrorism with all its capabilities."
However, according to al-Rahwi, al-Baida province is not a new target of al-Qaeda.
"Some elements of the organisation that are taking refuge in al-Baida may be hiding and getting ready before they attack directorates in Abyan, including Modia," he said.
Meanwhile, officials reported that 11 al-Qaeda fighters were killed Monday evening during an artillery attack by the Yemeni army on several sites where the organisation's fighters are holed up in Zinjibar.