Al Qaeda captures major airport, seaport and oil terminal in southern YemenAl Qaeda seized control of a major airport, a sea port and an oil terminal in southern Yemen on Thursday, consolidating its hold on the country’s largest province amid wider chaos pitting Shiite rebels against forces loyal to the exiled president and a Saudi-led air campaign. Military officials and residents said Al Qaeda fighters clashed briefly with members of one of Yemen’s largest brigades outside Mukalla, a city the militants overran earlier this month and where they freed prison inmates. The militants then seized control of the Riyan airport and moved to secure their hold on the city’s main sea port, which is also an oil terminal. The security officials, speaking from Sanaa on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press, said the leaders of the brigade in charge of protecting the entire area fled. The latest advance marks a major gain for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni affiliate is known, which has been linked to several failed attacks on the U.S. and is widely seen as the global network’s most dangerous franchise. The group claimed responsibility for the attack on a French satirical magazine earlier this year. The group has exploited the chaos in Yemen, where Shiite rebels, along with allied military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, captured the capital in September and have been advancing despite a three-week Saudi-led air campaign. The rebels are staunch opponents of Al Qaeda but are currently locked in fierce battles with forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia last month. MORE