2 May, 2016, 12:00 am
DOHA – Yemen’s al-Qaida branch on Saturday confirmed it had withdrawn from the Yemeni seaport of Mukalla a week after government and Emirati soldiers seized the city used by Islamist militants to amass a fortune amid the chaos of civil war.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said it had retreated from the port on Yemen’s south coast to save it from destruction and that a handful of its fighters had been killed.
“We only withdrew to prevent the enemy from moving the battle to your homes, markets, roads and mosques,” the group said in a rare statement posted on Twitter.
About 2000 Yemeni and Emirati troops advanced into Mukalla last Sunday, local officials and residents said, taking control of its maritime port and airport and meeting little resistance.
Mukalla has been the centre of a rich mini-state along the Arabian Sea coastline that AQAP built up over the past year as it exploited conflict between government loyalists backed by a Gulf Arab coalition and Houthi rebels supported by Iran.