The Sharia Supporters, the offshoot of Yemen Al-Qaida, on Tuesday confirmed the fall of their key strongholds of Zinjibar and Jaar in south Yemen, saying in a statement of which Almasdar Online got a copy, its militants had withdrawn to avoid shedding the blood of Muslims.
After months of battles in Abyan, the defense ministry said the army has finally cleared Al-Qaida militants from all towns in this southern province including the capital Zinjibar, which were seized in mid-2011.
"Our fighters withdrew from Zinjibar amid fears the government forces might repeat their crime of destroying the whole city and displacing its people, which occurred last year," the website quoted the statement as saying.
In the meantime, the defense ministry has said the forces have started the golden swords operation to hunt and clear all militants from Abyan, including the areas to where militants fled the battles in the past few days.
The statement, however, denied that the militants withdrew from Jaar after battles with the forces, saying the withdrawal started before the government forces could arrive in this strategic city, according to the website.
Earlier today, Al-Qaida militants distributed publications while leaving Jaar, saying they never wanted to disturb the locals and that their withdrawal came to prevent possible attacks against the civilians, the website said.
With direct support from the US and tribal fighters, the army stepped few months ago the offensive against Al-Qaida militants killing and injuring hundreds of them including senior leaders.