Yemeni security forces on Tuesday (June 12th) scored a crushing blow against al-Qaeda when they seized the organisation's strongholds of Jaar and Zinjibar in Abyan province.
The takeover is the result of the army's month-long offensive against the group in Abyan, coming on the heels of its retaking of an ammunition factory on Monday that had been al-Qaeda's main base in the province.
"With the co-operation of the citizens of Abyan […] the heroes of the armed forces and the popular resistance committees have taken full control of the city of Jaar," AFP reported the defence ministry as saying early Tuesday.
Officials said later that the army had also taken control of Zinjibar.
"Al-Qaeda fighters have fled the city after the noose was tightened on them," said Gen. Mohammed al-Somali, head of Yemen's 25th Mechanised Brigade.
Twenty al-Qaeda fighters were killed in fighting in Jaar and the bodies of six other fighters were found in Zinjibar, AFP reported.
The offensive began May 12th, when the army launched a major campaign to regain control of areas in Abyan province that had been seized by members of Ansar al-Sharia, an al-Qaeda-affiliate. The group seized the territory about a year ago while the country was contending with political turmoil.
On Monday morning, army units allied with pro-government popular committees fought a series of heated battles against al-Qaeda fighters between Hurour and Jaar.
Earlier in the day, government forces had expelled al-Qaeda from the Batis region and re-taken the ammunition factory, military vehicles and weapons.
The October 7th Ammunition Factory, near the city of Jaar, was one of al-Qaeda's key positions in Abyan, officials said.
Ahmed al-Rahwi, the deputy governor of Abyan province, said the army's recapture of the factory was highly significant.
"When [the factory] fell into Ansar al-Sharia's hands last year that enabled the group to capture Jaar," he said.
Jaar, which Ansar al-Sharia had declared an Islamic emirate in March 2011, had served as al-Qaeda's main stronghold in the area and served as the location from which they extended their control over other regions, al-Rahwi said.
Al-Rahwi said the army's recent progress in Abyan "reflects the government's seriousness in fighting terrorism and ridding Abyan province of this scourge that caused the displacement of tens of thousands of people and brought tragedy to the population in Abyan".
Political analyst Mohammed al-Ghabri also said the recent military campaigns are signs of the government's determination to fight al-Qaeda.
"[President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi's] commitment is reflected in the efforts to unify the army on the battlefronts in Abyan, and these are the results of the leadership's seriousness and insistence on fighting terrorism," he said.
"Al-Qaeda has already begun looking for a new home base in Shabwa province," al-Ghabri said.
"They will soon be looking for a new home base outside Yemen," he added.
Abdul Salam Mohammed, president of the Abaad Studies and Research Centre, agreed, saying that the armed forces' determination is squashing the terrorist scourge.
"Despite all the weapons al-Qaeda possesses or has looted in previous battles, it still lost the battle, which shows the army has regained its stature and is determined to fight terrorism after the disruptions that occurred," he said.
Abdul Salam also praised Abyan residents for supporting the army in its war against terrorism, describing their support as "moral rather than military".