Yemeni troops have recaptured a key port city from Al-Qaeda militants who held it for a year, in what a Saudi-led coalition hailed Monday as a major victory in which over 800 extremists were killed.
The assault on the southeastern city of Mukalla, home to some 200,000 people, was part of a wider counter-offensive against the extremists launched by pro-government forces last month after a year in which they had focused their firepower on Shiite Houthi rebels who control the capital.
It comes as government and rebel delegations hold peace talks in Kuwait.
At the talks, which opened last Thursday, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that “significant differences… remain but nonetheless there is consensus on the need to make peace.”
The peace talks and US President Barack Obama’s visit have contributed to a change in “strategic priorities,” with Al-Qaeda back at the top, according to the Soufan Group consultancy.
Further west in Shabwa province, a US drone on Monday struck two vehicles carrying Al-Qaeda militants near the town of Azzan — from which the extremists have fled — killing nine extremists, a provincial official said.
“We entered the city center and were met by no resistance from Al-Qaeda militants who withdrew west,” a military officer told AFP by telephone from Mukalla.
The officer, who requested anonymity, said residents had appealed to the extremists to spare the city the destruction of fighting and to withdraw.
Troops deployed in Mukalla on Monday and set up checkpoints across the city, security officials said.
“The operation resulted… in the deaths of more than 800 Al-Qaeda members and some of their leaders, while some others fled,” the coalition commanders said.
Newsbd71/mm/ 26 Apr , 2016