Mon, Oct 26, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Talks to push al-Qaeda out of Aden fail: Yemen

STRATEGIC STOCKPILES:Security officials said Muslim extremist groups acquired a number of weapons and vehicles during the fight for the city, hiding them in fields

AP, SANA’A

Mediated talks between the Yemeni government and al-Qaeda to persuade the militants to give up their weapons or move out of the southern port city of Aden have failed, Yemeni security officials in government-controlled Aden and tribal mediators said on Saturday.

Tribal and public figures accepted by both sides, who have been involved in mediation talks, told reporters the discussions began about three months ago, after government forces pushed Houthi Shiite rebels out of Aden.

The mediators said they have also been trying to convince al-Qaeda to withdraw from areas they control in al-Houta in the Lahij Governorate.

After the Houthis were expelled from Aden in July, al-Qaeda apparently took advantage of the security vacuum as pro-government forces moved outside Aden to challenge the Houthis, as clashes raged between the two sides in other parts of the country.

Yemen has been embroiled in fighting between Houthis and allied army units against forces loyal to the internationally recognized government, as well as southern separatists and other militants.

The conflict gained international attention when the Houthis took over the capital, Sana’a, in September last year, and escalated in March as a Saudi-led coalition started launching airstrikes against Houthi positions.

Al-Qaeda militants had been fighting alongside pro-government forces without revealing their affiliation, focusing on capturing and storing weapons during the clashes with the Houthis, a security official in Aden said.

Security officials said al-Qaeda and other Muslim extremist groups in Aden obtained more than 55 armored vehicles, 22 tanks, anti-aircraft missiles and large amounts of other weapons during the fighting and hid them underground and in fields.

Aden Governor Gaafar Mohamed Saad on Friday issued a ban against carrying weapons in the streets. The decree, which went into effect on Saturday, stipulates security forces would immediately confiscate illegal weapons.

Officials and witnesses in Aden said al-Qaeda has held large armed parades in the city over the past two days. Washington considers al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch to be the most dangerous offshoot of the terror network.

Aden resident Ahmed Hashem said locals supported the weapons ban.

With so many weapons in the streets, “we now cannot even tell who is al-Qaeda, who is Islamic State, who is just a thug and who is from the resistance [against the Houthis],” he said.

The decision to confiscate illegal weapons came after talks failed, according to security officials in Aden.

The mediators told reporters they tried to convince the militants to lay down their weapons and integrate into society, promising they would not be harassed if they do. When that failed, they tried to convince them to take their weapons and leave Aden, but the militants refused again, saying they have the right to partake in running the city after they participated in the fighting, according to the mediators.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

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