SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen is in open war against al Qaeda and will go after the militants wherever they are, the president said on Thursday, as his country faces retaliatory attacks by insurgents bent on establishing an Islamist emirate in the Arabian peninsula state.
In his first remarks since the army launched an offensive to dislodge al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from its southern strongholds more than two weeks ago, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi said his troops would go after the insurgents in southern, central and northern provinces.
After a wave of attacks against government officials, security forces and foreigners, Yemen launched its most concerted campaign in nearly two years against AQAP.
"He (Hadi) affirmed that the battle against this terrorist organization is open and that the army and security forces have to be prepared for cleansing operations in Abyan, Maarib, Shabwa and Bayda," the state news agency reported after the president met with the Supreme Security Committee.
"It is necessary to go after them with strength and decisiveness," Hadi said.
The militants have carried out retaliatory attacks in the capital Sanaa and beyond as their strongholds have been gradually squeezed in the southern regions of Abyan and Shabwa.
Last Friday, four soldiers were killed in a gunbattle with militants near the presidential palace in Sanaa. On Sunday, a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a military police building in the coastal city of Mukalla, killing at least 10 soldiers and a civilian.
The stability of Yemen, which shares a long border with the world's top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, is an international concern. The United States has stepped up its support for the government and military, including conducting drone strikes.
Yemen has been in turmoil since 2011, when mass protests forced long-ruling president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.
(Reporting by Mohamed Ghobari; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)