File - A notebook belonging to an al Qaeda fighter, which was found in a former militant training camp in southern Yemen in May 2014, is seen in this picture taken July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Martin Dokoupil
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The notebook, with the name Abu al-Dahdah al-Taazi in red calligraphy on the first page, is one relic of what a local Yemeni governor called a leadership camp for Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP).Locals in the nearby town of Mahfad described how they had tolerated hundreds of militants for three years.The story of the camp shows how deeply embedded Al-Qaeda fighters had become in the country's remote, destitute south.Last month the Yemeni army said 500 militants and 40 soldiers have been killed since it launched the offensive against the group in April.So far, the raids like the one near Mahfad have broken up the camps but fighters seem to have simply moved into other parts of the country.Home to around 10,000 people, the town is more than 400 miles from the capital Sanaa and a grueling five-hour drive from the southern port city of Aden through stark mountains, acacia trees and volcanic rock.The army mounted a campaign to push them out, but didn't come near Mahfad.In late March, the fighters sent out a video of a large Al-Qaeda gathering, which showed hundreds of militants singing and celebrating unperturbed, apparently in the camp outside Al-Mahfad.The Yemeni army followed with its offensive. Skirmishes on the Aden-Mahfad route killed at least nine soldiers, Aqel said.Local Al-Qaeda fighters were allowed to quit the group and return home.
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