Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has expanded its footprint across southern Yemen by seizing five towns, including a provincial capital, over the past two weeks. Al Qaeda’s official branch in Yemen continues to capitalize on Yemen’s chaotic civil war.

AQAP took “full control” of Houta, the capital of Lahj province, on Jan. 26, according to Al-Araby al-Jadeed. Pro-government militias in the town fled as AQAP fighters were “storming the public institutions” and blew up a police station.

After overruning Houta, AQAP marched on four towns in the provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, traditional strongholds for the jihadist insurgent group. On Feb. 1, AQAP took Azzan in Shabwa without a fight. […]