Al-Qaeda in Yemen has overrun three southern towns just days after a US raid which killed at least 16 civilians, officials have said.
The terrorist group’s entry into the Abyan province towns of Loder, Shaqra and Ahwar came as the White House defended Sunday’s raid on a purportedly al-Qaeda compound as a “success” even though multiple civilians and a Navy SEAL were killed.
Local sources said the captures were helped by a pullout by forces loyal to the Saudi-backed former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, angry over the late payment of their wages.
Another source said al-Qaeda militants later withdrew from Loder and Shaqra after protest demonstrations by residents who threatened to take arms against the Takfiri group.
Al-Qaeda has taken advantage of nearly two years of a Saudi military campaign targeting the Yemeni army and Houthi fighters, which has left more than 10,000 people dead.
Yemeni forces have been fighting the Saudi invaders back including by launching retaliatory measures along the Saudi border or inside Saudi Arabia.
On Thursday, the Saudi Interior Ministry said a border guard of the kingdom was killed after a mine blast in southwestern province of Jizan on the border with Yemen.
The Saudi soldier died at the hospital as a result of severe injuries sustained in the mine blast, the ministry said.
Many Saudis forces have been killed along the Yemeni border since Saudi Arabia launched military intervention against Yemen two years ago.
Footage has recently emerged showing Yemeni forces attacking and destroying Saudi Arabia’s al-Moqran military base in Jizan.
On Thursday, the Yemeni Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning Washington’s efforts to link Yemen’s military actions to Iran.
The statement said that the destruction of the Saudi warship had enraged the Saudi-led forces, prompting them to make baseless allegations against Iran.
It came after US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn accused Iran of a “destabilizing behavior across the Middle East.” He also pointed to a Monday attack by Yemen’s Ansarullah fighters on a Saudi warship near the port city of Hudaydah.
The Yemeni forces attacked the warship in Yemen’s territorial waters as an act of self-defense in response to the Saudi war on Yemen and Riyadh’s dispatching of terrorists and mercenaries to the country, the statement read.
The ministry stressed that the Saudi war in Yemen will fail, and that security and stability will be restored to the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait once Saudi Arabia ends the aggression, lifts the blockade on Yemen, and starts looking for a political solution that maintains the dignity of the Yemeni people.
The anti-Iran accusations have surfaced again as Saudi Arabia and its mercenaries have been suffering major blows on the battleground at the hands of Yemen’s Houthi fighters and allied armed forces.
Political analysts believe that such allegations are aimed at covering up the failure of the government in Riyadh and its allies to achieve their goals in the impoverished Arab country.
The Riyadh regime and its regional and Western partners, including the US, have accused Iran of shipping arms to Yemen’s Ansarullah fighters, who have been allied with the Yemeni military against Saudi Arabia. Tehran has strongly rejected the claim as baseless.