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Monday, September 12, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Yemen takes back strategic southern capital from Al Qaida, with U.S. and Saudi support

CAIRO — Yemen has reported the capture of a city held by Al Qaida for nearly five months.


The Yemen Army announced the capture of the southern provincial capital of Zinjibar on Sept. 10. The Army said Al Qaida, in control of the coastal city since May, fled Zinjibar amid heavy artillery and air strikes, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States government provided logistical support during the ongoing operations," a Yemeni government statement said.

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Officials said Riyad and Washington joined in air strikes and flew supplies to the embattled Yemen Army around Zinjibar. They said the foreign aid allowed the Army's 25th Brigade to break out of an Al Qaida siege that lasted nearly five months.

The Defense Ministry said at least 280 people were killed in fighting between the brigade and AQAP. The ministry said most of the casualties, more than three times the figure previously released by Sanaa, consisted of Yemeni soldiers.

"The southern military region lost more than 230 martyrs in the fighting," Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed said.

Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan, has long been regarded as a strategic location. Yemen employs the coastal city for the transport of three million barrels of crude oil per day.

Still, Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula remains deployed in Abyan, including partsof Zinjibar.

Officials said AQAP was regrouping in Jaar, located near Zinjibar.

"We are pursuing limited pockets of militants," Yemen Army Gen. Mohammed Al Somali said. "But the real battle will be to cleanse the town of Jaar."

Officials said President Ali Abdullah Saleh congratulated the Army from Saudi Arabia. Saleh has been confined to Saudi Arabia since June when he was flown for medical treatment in wake of a bombing of his compound.

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