Aden, June 14 (Xinhua-ANI): Scores of militants of the Yemen-based al-Qaida wing have withdrawn from Yemen's southern town of Shakra, which they overran a year ago, a Yemeni security official said Thursday.
The al-Qaida militants along with several vehicles loaded with weapons have left Shakra, a coastal town on a major shipping route, after the army drove them out of two other cities in the southern province of Abyan, the local security official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
"They quit the town during the night. All streets, neighborhoods and government buildings are now absolutely free of the al-Qaida militants," the security official said.
"When the army troops advanced and seized control over two hills overlooking Shakra town, the al-Qaida militants fled to avoid the offensive," he added.
Many senior leaders of the al-Qaida group are no longer holing up in the coastal town of Shakra, some 50 km away from Zinjibar, Abyan's provincial capital, according to intelligence officers.
A local resident told Xinhua anonymously that "the al-Qaida militants evacuated all public buildings in Shakra. They left overnight without causing any chaos or destruction in our town."
"Shakra was the last foothold of al-Qaida in Abyan province," he said.
Hundreds of Yemeni troops backed by armored vehicles moved early Thursday to take control of Shakra after the militants' withdrawal, an army officer said.
On Tuesday, the Yemeni armed forces took control of Jaar and Zinjibar, two major al-Qaida strongholds in Abyan that had been under al-Qaida control for more than a year.
The Yemeni government troops have waged an intensive military campaign since last month, with support of the United States and Yemen's oil-rich neighbor Saudi Arabia, to uproot the al-Qaida militants from the southern regions.
The Yemen-based al-Qaida wing, locally known as the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic Law), admitted leaving its major strongholds, saying that "the fighters have retreated from Zinjibar and Jaar in Abyan to avoid destruction of towns by the American-led army."
The terrorist group also threatened to spread the fight and suicide attacks all over Yemen after it was forced to abandon its main strongholds in Abyan. (Xinhua-ANI)