As the situation in Yemen’s capital of Sana’a continues to deteriorate, with open fighting in the streets, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula continues to take advantage of the security vacuum in the south. Last weekend, hundreds of AQAP fighters took control of the city of Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan. And today, according to a report from Xinhua, AQAP has taken control of the city of Azzan in Shabwa province:
“Following fierce battles with government forces, fighters of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) managed to seize the whole city of Azzan in the southeast province of Shabwa on Wednesday, announcing that the city of Azzan joins in their Islamic emirate,” one local official told Xinhua.
Some tribal leaders and residents confirmed the news in phone conversations with Xinhua.
The tribal leaders said the AQAP militants were enjoying high- level activities nowadays because of the weak presence of security forces, which were pulled out to major cities to curb the four- month-long anti-government protests as well as to secure the government and foreign interests from sporadic riot acts.
Shabwa is one of several AQAP strongholds in Yemen. It is also the home of Anwar al Awlaki, who has sheltered with the Shabwa tribes.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.