The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has begun another counter-terrorism assault against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Abyan governorate yesterday, just two weeks after it launched its last offensive, Emirates News Agency reported.
The mission “began on Tuesday to cleanse pockets and strongholds of Al-Qaeda members from Al-Muhafad and Wadi Hamara districts, the last terrorist stronghold in Abyan Governorate”, a statement on Emirates News Agency read.
The UAE-backed Security Belt Forces (SBF) is carrying out the “military plan” with assistance from the Saudi-led coalition. So far, Abu Mohesen Basabreen, an Al-Qaeda leader, has been killed while fighting with the SBF. According to the UAE, heavy losses have been incurred already by AQAP.
AQAP’s open source networks have remained silent since early March, contrary to their usual output during high intensity conflict upticks.
The Security Belt Forces, primarily made up of recruited Yemenis from southern governorates, are paid an average of $800 per month and have been deployed in Abyan, Aden and Lahij, according to UN experts.
Last week, the UAE launched its second counter-terrorism operation in Shabwa governorate against AQAP. The operation was conducted by the UAE-backed Shabwani Elite Force, as part of a broader strategy to push out AQAP from southern Yemen.
A 20-page report published in the US claims that AQAP has been weakened by UAE-backed forces in southern Yemen. But claims the progress may be exploited by Al-Qaeda as it resembles a “colonising force” in Yemen.
Southern Yemen is also where Yemen’s oil pipelines and natural gas factory is placed, insinuating a protective and venture capital counter-terrorism operation.
The UAE entered Yemen in 2015 as part of the Saudi-led coalition to assist the Yemeni government with threats posed by the Iranian-backed Houthi group which currently controls the capital Sana’a. All of the UAE’s military and political efforts focus on southern Yemen, where it has supported the Southern Transitional Council since last year.