After nearly a year under the control of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the city of al-Mukallah, a key southern port and provincial capital, has fallen in the face of around 2,000 troops including forces of the Aden-based pro-Saudi government and troops from the United Arab Emirates.
Much as the city fell without any serious fighting when AQAP took it, shortly after Saudi Arabia first attacked Yemen, today’s offensive didn’t see a lot of fighting either, as AQAP forces scattered, heading into other territorial possessions. Seven Yemeni troops were killed in a bombing, however.
Troops were also said to be advancing on another provincial capital held by AQAP, the Abyan capital of Zinjibar. This has been held off and on by AQAP and its Islamist allies for many years now, first falling during the Arab Spring revolution.
It is unclear what is driving the pro-Saudi forces to suddenly go after AQAP so much more aggressively, as early in the war they appeared to virtually ignore them, attacking the Shi’ite Houthis even if it meant cities like Mukallah couldn’t be held by either faction and would inevitably fall to AQAP. Recent ceasefire efforts haven’t wholly held together, but apparently have allowed the focus to shift a bit.