The armed group of al-Qaeda militants, who seized the southern town earlier last week, demanded 15 of the militants be freed in order to leave the area from militants who have taken over Radda area, occupying government offices, mediators told Yemen Observer.
Sheikh Ali Al-Tairi, who has led mediation efforts along with other leaders in the town, said the imposed adverse conditions asking for the release of 15 militants in exchange for the militants to flee the area. Al-Tairi said that they refused the militant’;s request but that had accepted an earlier one made by the militant’s leader, Tariq Al-Thahab, who had asked for the release of his brother. Al-Thahab’s brother, Nabil, is said to be detained in Sana’a after being repatriated by Syrian authority to Yemen.
Al-Tairi said that the militant leader’s older brother, Hizam Al-Dhahab, arrived Radda Thursday and warned his brother, Tariq, to leave or that he might use force against him.
Locals and Radda government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the militants freed two key prisoners among the roughly 200 people, most of whom convicted in murder cases. “The two key prisoners were convicted in killing a man [militants] accused of being a witch,” said Abduraqeeb Qasim, a former prosecution official of the town.
The number of militants, who seized the southern town of Radda last Saturday overnight, reached some 50 militants, officials said, but then were joined by dozens from the neighboring province of Abyan, the main hotbed of al-Qaeda.
Qasim said: “They [militants] head towards the prosecution and seized weapon… Before, we would not hear about Tariq [Al-Dhahab], and al-Qaeda had almost no activity there.”
They took a citadel overlooking the town of around 60,000 and a nearby mosque in which the militant leader delivered a speech and declared the town an Islamic emirate.
“There has been a popular discontent by the town dignitaries at the militant takeover,” said Qasim, the former prosecution official who said the town leaders have now given the militant deadline to leave the town. “Otherwise”, Qasim said, “I think they enough power to force militants out.”
A security officer in Abyan province told Yemen Observer that dozens of Abyan al-Qaeda militants are joining their comrades in Radda. The security source, quoting an intelligence officer in Abyan who requested to remain anonymous, said the militants were inspired by calls for establishing Sharia law. The source said militants were regrouping in Zinjubar, Abyan capital seized by militants last May. The security source added that militants were also regrouping in Azzan area of Shabwa province, another hotbed of al-Qaeda.
A military reinforcement is heading toward the newly seized town by al-Qaeda amid failure of tribal leaders to force militants out.
The Yemen-based al-Qaeda, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has posed a threat to the US administration by targeting key US targets and also threatens number one top oil exporter Saudi Arabia. The southern lawlessness, caused by a ten-month of anti-regime protest, has given the group more control to operate, expanding their control over more territories.