ADEN, Yemen, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- Members of the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch were largely deployed on Sunday across a key district in the country's turbulent southern province of Abyan, a local resident told Xinhua.
The Abyan-based resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said that "several heavily armed fighters of al-Qaida seized the government institutions and set up checkpoints around the entrances of Wadea district in Abyan province."
"All entrances of Wadea are now controlled by masked al-Qaida fighters who increased presence here and created panic among the local citizens," he said.
In 2017, southern military units of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) launched a large anti-terror offensive and drove al-Qaida militants out from Wadea district.
However, sporadic internal fighting between Yemen's government forces and the STC military units created a security vacuum and enabled al-Qaida to resume activities in Abyan.
A local military source confirmed to Xinhua that "last month's internal fighting was the main cause for what is happening now and we will witness an increase in the attacks of al-Qaida in the upcoming days after the withdrawal of the southern troops."
He said anonymously that "some of al-Qaida militants immediately began with assassinating members of the southern military units living there in Wadea."
"There are fears that al-Qaida militants might also take revenge on those people who engaged in the anti-terror campaign against them in 2017," he added.
Last week, al-Qaida in the Arabin Peninsula (AQAP) resumed their presence and terror activities in the country's southeastern province of Shabwa because of a recent security vacuum there.
According to a local Yemeni official, absence of the Shabwani elite security units that were trained and equipped by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) enabled AQAP to gain a foothold in the turbulent province Shabwa again.
Last year, the newly-recruited southern security units backed by UAE armed forces operating in the southern province of Aden launched a number of anti-terror offensives "to root out al-Qaida militants from their strongholds in the neighboring southern province of Abyan."
Hundreds of the newly-recruited southern soldiers joined the anti-terror campaigns after receiving adequate military training and financial support from the UAE forces.
The UAE-backed anti-terror campaigns dislodged al-Qaida militants from several villages in Abyan and in the neighboring southeastern province of Shabwa, with more than 50 of them arrested.
The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch, seen by the United States as the global terror network's most dangerous branch, has exploited years of deadly conflict between Yemen's government and Houthi rebels to expand its presence, especially in Shabwa and Abyan provinces.