According to local officials and media sources, heavy skirmishes between suspected Al-Qaeda militants and Yemeni security forces in the province of Dhale have killed ten persons, including two officers and seven militants.
Fighting erupted inside the headquarters of the government’s Security Belt forces, north of Dhale city, on Friday evening, according to a local security official, after a group of captured Al-Qaeda militants refused to lay down their rifles and began shooting at security officials.
“The forces who apprehended those militants made a mistake by not disarming them immediately after detaining them and allowing them to carry guns until they arrived at the headquarters,” a security official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.
When security forces demanded that the militants hand over their weapons in order to enter the building, they began hurling grenades and firing machine guns, resulting in severe confrontations and explosions.
Among those slain were Waled Saleh Hasan Al-Dhami, deputy commander of the Dhale Security Belt, and Mohammed Yahiya Al-Shubaji, leader of a counterterrorism squad.
According to the official, another soldier killed in the firefight, along with seven insurgents, and at least six servicemen were wounded.
Local military and security forces, educated and armed by the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, have forced Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, commonly known as AQAP, out of their key havens and strongholds, killing and arresting scores of fighters during the last six years.
The extremists’ lethal strikes have diminished significantly, and their attempts to return to the southern regions have been thwarted.
Separately, the UN Yemen envoy, Hans Grundberg, praised the coalition’s announcement on Friday of the release of Houthi war detainees and urged Yemeni sides to speed up efforts to complete another prisoner swap, which might reunite hundreds of Yemenis with their families.
“Last month, the parties agreed to another inmate exchange through my office. “I urge the parties to agree on the details of the release as soon as possible so that Yemeni families can be reunited,” the UN representative tweeted.
“This will be a significant step in implementing Stockholm’s commitment to free all conflict-related detainees.”
The coalition claimed on Friday that it was releasing 163 Houthi war captives, including foreign people, and transporting them to Aden and Sanaa in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross in a goodwill gesture to pave the way for an end to the war.
After the Houthis refused to recognize them as their prisoners, the internationally recognized government of Yemen decided to accept the majority of the liberated inmates in Aden.