Al-Qaeda forces in southern Yemen yesterday managed to wrestle control of a district in the Abyan province which is the hometown of Saudi-backed Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
Al-Wadea district was overrun with Al-Qaeda fighters, who sources say began to emerge not long after the reported arrival of dozens of Islah aligned militia last week from Marib to the oil producing province of Shabwa, which shares a border with Abyan.
The Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Islah could be taking heed of a fatwa, religious edict, issued by the Board of Yemeni Ulema (religious scholars), which called for the southern separatist “insurgency” headed by the Southern Transitional Council (STC) to be eliminated.
The UAE, although partners with Saudi Arabia in the coalition against the Houthi-dominated north, also backs the STC, causing a rift between the two Gulf states, especially since the STC assumed control over the strategic port city of Aden, which served as the de-facto capital of the Hadi government.
Allegations have also circulated that Saudi Arabia has been supporting the Islah militia in its fight against the Houthis.
The Abyan province has fallen in and out of Al-Qaeda control throughout the duration of the conflict, which is currently in its fifth year. It is believed that Al-Qaeda tactically retreated in the past, despite UAE reports of military victories against the militants.