Last updated: 10 September, 2011

Yemen army frees brigade besieged by Qaeda

Yemen’s army has freed the base of the 25th Mechanised Brigade, besieged by Al-Qaeda suspects in the country’s south since late May, state news agency Saba reported Saturday.

Yemeni “President Ali Abdullah Saleh … congratulated the heroes of the armed and security forces for ending the blockade by Al-Qaeda militants in Abyan on the 25th Mechanised Brigade that has lasted more than three months,” said Saba.

A military official also announced that “the army has freed the central security building which has been under Al-Qaeda’s control and will begin combing the city (of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province) in the coming hours to hunt down Al-Qaeda militants.”

In May, a group known as the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic Law), believed to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda, seized control of most of Zinjibar and besieged the base of the 25th Mechanised Brigade on the outskirts of the town.

Since anti-government protests swept Yemen in late January, militants have taken advantage of the weakening of central authority to set up base in several southern provinces as well as Maarib province in the east.

The United Nations and Western governments have expressed growing concern about the role Al-Qaeda might play in Yemen if the regime of veteran Saleh collapses and a power vacuum ensues.