In absence of state, Qaeda seizes town in southern Yemen
ADEN (Yemen) - Al-Qaeda fighters have taken control of a town in southern Yemen on a major road linking two provincial capitals, a local official and tribal chiefs said on Monday.
Militants swept unopposed into Azzan, in Shabwa province, before raising the Al-Qaeda flag over public buildings, the sources said.
"The state is absent and it is not surprising that this vacuum is filled by Al-Qaeda," a local official said.
Azzan lies on the highway between Shabwa province capital Ataq and the city of Mukalla, the capital of the vast desert Hadramawt province overrun by jihadists in April.
According to tribal chiefs, most of the fighters who seized Azzan come from the surrounding area.
Yemen, home to what the United States considers Al-Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate, has been convulsed by unrest since the Iran-backed Huthis seized Sanaa in September last year.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has exploited the turmoil to tighten its grip on parts of southeast Yemen, including Mukalla, imposing a strict form of Islamic law.
AQAP fighters briefly seized the southern town of Jaar in December in what analysts said was a "show of force" to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Islamist militants, including AQAP and the Islamic State group, have also gained ground in and around the main southern city of Aden, where Hadi's government has established its temporary headquarters.