Saudi battleships have moved into the port of the southern Yemeni city of Mukallah today, capturing the port area of the largest city currently under the control of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). At present they have made no attempt to seize the city itself.
AQAP is said to have scrambled after this unexpected arrival of battleships, stepping up security patrols and establishing more checkpoints around the city, aiming to ensure that Saudi forces don’t get in without a fight.
Pro-Saudi forces have largely left AQAP alone over the course of their nine-month war in Yemen, and indeed the only reason AQAP was able to take over Mukallah in the first place is that Saudi offensives forced the Shi’ite Houthis out of the area and left the city virtually unguarded.
Pro-Saudi forces have recently fought with Islamists over the ports in their own temporary capital city of Aden, and this move against AQAP’s port is likely also in part a function of their recent objection of private ships docking in Mukallah to make deliveries without formal permission from the Saudi Navy.