Yemen army gears up for push on al-Qaida-held town

June 4, 2012 15:00

SANAA - The Yemeni army geared up for a push to try to take a southern coastal town from al-Qaida-linked fighters on Monday, residents said, part of a US-backed offensive in a country Washington sees as a front line of its war against the Islamist militants.

The United States and its Gulf allies are alarmed by the deteriorating security in Yemen, where al-Qaida's Arabian Peninsula wing (AQAP) took advantage of a split in the military during an uprising against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh and seized territory in the south province of Abyan last year.

Shi'ite rebels known as Houthis also exploited the political upheaval and carved out their own state within a state in the rugged northern province of Saada, on the border with Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter.

The United States, which helped engineer Saleh's replacement by his deputy in February, is backing an offensive in the south and has stepped up its campaign of drone strike assassinations of alleged al-Qaida members it says plot attacks from Yemen.

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