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UAE and US-backed Yemeni troops capture al-Qaeda town

Pro-government troops captured the town in southern Yemen [AFP-file photo]

Date of publication: 7 August, 2017

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UAE-backed troops have captured an oil-rich area in Yemen from al-Qaeda militants, adding further strain on the jihadi group.

US and UAE-backed Yemeni special forces recently captured an oil-rich area from al-Qaeda militants, a senior military official announced on Monday.

An elite military force - trained and backed by the UAE and US - launched a "major operation" on Thursday in Shabwa province, which has been a stronghold of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] militants.

The operation forced the fighters to flee south to neighbouring Abyan province.

Witnesses in a town near the Shabwa border reported at least 45 AQAP vehicles passing through the territory.

Al-Qaeda-held areas of Shabwa province have been frequently targeted in US drone strikes, which intensified when Donald Trump became president in January.

A US air raid on the province in June killed local AQAP "emir" Abu Khattab al-Awlaqi, according to the Pentagon. 

AQAP have also launched a number attacks in the area in recent months, including one suicide attack last week that left seven Yemeni troops dead. 

The US confirmed last week it was helping Emirati and government forces battle AQAP in Shabwa. 

The UAE is a key part of the Saudi-led military alliance fighting Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa.

Read also: Portraits of UAE royals at military camp in Yemen spark angry reactions

Emirati troops and Yemeni militias loyal to Abu Dhabi have established a foothold in the south and central regions of the country.

Abu Dhabi's presence has been described by some Yemenis as an "occupation" and human rights groups have slammed the alleged torture of prisoners by Emirati troops.

The UAE said the recent operation was being "closely supported by a combined UAE and US enabling force".

The Pentagon confirmed that "a very small number" of US troops were in the Yemeni province, mostly tasked with helping the flow of information.

Al-Qaeda has taken advantage of civil war in Yemen, which has cost at least 10,000 lives and led to a human disaster in the country.

AQAP is believed to be the jihadi network's most dangerous affiliate.

Agencies contributed to this article.

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