The U.S. is pulling out the last contingent of its Special Operations Forces at al-Annad air base in southern Yemen, CNN reported Saturday. The security situation in the divided country continues to deteriorate in the aftermath of a partially successful coup by Houthi rebels in late January. About 100 U.S. military personnel will be departing the troubled Arabian Peninsula nation.
U.S. officials reportedly decided on the pullout in the wake of two prison breaks close to the al-Annad air base this week, when hundreds of members of al Qaeda supposedly escaped. The U.S. “temporarily relocated” its embassy staff out of Yemen’s capital Sanaa Feb. 10. By and large, Zaidi Shiite Houthi militants control the northern part of the country, and the predominately Sunni government controls the southern part of the nation.
Friday, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for two bombings of Shiite mosques in Sanaa that killed 137 and wounded 357, although its claim has not been independently verified. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the bombings Friday and urged all parties in Yemen to sit down and work within a U.N.-mediated framework for peace talks.
In previous years, the Yemeni government allowed the U.S. to base anti-terrorism operations in its country. These operations included controversial drone strikes that sometimes killed civilians. Yemen began working directly with the U.S. in the latter’s anti-terrorism operations in the Middle East shortly after al Qaeda’s attacks on America Sept. 11, 2001.