On Monday morning, militants belonging to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) local affiliate Ansar al-Shariah have taken control of a town in southern Yemen, which is located along a major road linking two provincial capitals.
According to local officials and tribal witnesses, dozens of Ansar al-Shariah’s militants with pick-up trucks arrived in the early hours of morning in Azzan to setup checkpoints at the entrances to the town and in its streets without facing any resistance, raising their black flag on government buildings.
Tribal chiefs said most of the militants who seized Azzan came from the surrounding area.
Exiled president ‘Abd-Rubbah Mansour Hadi’s army and Southern Popular Resistance (SPR) reportedly withdrew from Azzan before militants took over the town.
The town of Azzan lies on the highway linking the Shabwah province’s capital of Ataq and the city of Mukalla, the capital of the Hadramout province, which was overrun by jihadists in April 2015.
It’s the second largest commercial town in the Shabwah province, where it’s situated near to the Balhaf oil facility and Gulf of Aden.
It was also the scene where 15 Yemeni soldiers were beheaded by Islamic State fighters last year.
Houthis briefly entered Shabwah province and occupied the capital of Ataq before withdrawing in August 2015, resulting in the jihadists taking advantage of this by filling up the security vacuum.
AQAP also seized Abyan’s southern provincial towns of Ja’ar, Zinjibar, and Ba Tays late last year.