Yemeni troops backed by Arab coalition claims to have killed more than 800 Al-Qaeda members in recent air strikes in southeast provincial city of Mukalla.
Pro-government forces recaptured an oil terminal as well as the city of Mukalla, which was considered a jihadist stronghold, and was held by them for the past one year, military sources said.
“The operation resulted… in the death of more than 800 Al-Qaeda members and some of their leaders, while some others fled,” Arab coalition commanders said in a statement published by SPA, the official Saudi news agency.
The Arab coalition which has been battling rebels in Yemen since March 2015, carried out air strikes against Al-Qaeda positions in Mukalla to pave the way for the ground troops, military sources said.
Troops also recaptured Mina al-Dhaba oil terminal in Shehr further east, the sources said.
“We entered the city centre (of Mukalla) and were met by no resistance from Al-Qaeda militants who withdrew west” towards the vast desert in Hadramawt and Shabwa provinces, a military officer told AFP by phone from the city the jihadists seized last April.
Yemeni military sources said Emirati military vehicles were used in the operation and that troops from the Gulf country, a key member of the Saudi-led coalition, were among the forces that entered Mukalla.
Earlier on Sunday, military sources said pro-government forces seized Riyan airport and an army brigade headquarters Al-Qaeda had held for a year on Mukalla’s outskirts.
Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is regarded by Washington as the network’s most dangerous branch, and has carried out deadly attacks on the West in the past.
Last month, a US air strike on an Al-Qaeda training camp in Hadramawt province killed dozens of fighters in a major blow to the jihadists.
(With inputs from agencies)