Saudi pilot killed in Yemen operation against Al-Qaeda

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, when Hadi fled into exile as the rebels threatened to overrun his last stronghold.

AFP| Updated: Sep 14, 2017, 19:25 PM IST

Riyadh: A Saudi pilot was killed in Yemen while providing air support for an operation against Al-Qaeda militants, a Saudi-led coalition backing the government said on Thursday.

The Saudi Royal Air Force plane crashed in the southern province of Abyan on Wednesday night "due to a technical failure," coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki told the official Saudi Press Agency.

On the ground, coalition-backed Yemeni forces managed to drive Al-Qaeda militants from Abyan`s Wadea district on Thursday, symbolic as the birthplace of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Abyan was a no-go zone for pro-government troops for months after Al-Qaeda fighters regrouped there following a similar offensive in neighboring Shabwa province last month.

Security sources told AFP the jihadists had not put up much resistance but instead withdrew -- a now familiar pattern for Al-Qaeda in Yemen. 

"Most of the organization`s leaders fled ... and headed towards the nearby Muhafid district," the sources said, referring to an Al-Qaeda stronghold on the edge of Abyan province.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, seen by the United States as the network`s most dangerous branch, has exploited years of conflict between the government and Shiite rebels who control the capital to expand its presence.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, when Hadi fled into exile as the rebels threatened to overrun his last stronghold.

Despite the support of the coalition`s firepower, the writ of Hadi`s government is still largely confined to the south and areas along the Saudi border.