Al - Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula(AQAP) fighters have consolidated their grip on territory in southern Yemen after capturing the towns of Zinjibar and Jaar from pro - government forces. The AQAP fighters launched an offensive on the towns at dawn on Wednesday, local officials said. Al-Khader Haidan, a leader within the popular committee forces in Zinjibar district, told Al Jazeera that the attack had been expected and that AQAP fighters had been planning to take over Abyan governorate, where both towns are located, since pro-government forces captured it from Houthi fighters in July. "Abyan is a stronghold of AQAP and we already informed the authorities in Aden to send us military reinforcements, but we did not get enough support from the Yemeni army," he said. "That is why the AQAP fighters took over the two main districts in Abyan easily." Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province on the Arabian Sea, had been a major focus of forces battling the Houthis. It was the fourth regional capital they had won back after taking control of the port of Aden from the Houthis in July. The war in Yemen is being fought on multiple fronts, with a large number of formal and informal forces squaring off in various areas of the country. President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by a Saudi-led coalition and a number of popular committee forces loyal to his government, are locked in an ongoing struggle for territory with the Houthi rebels and their allies - who seized the capital Sanaa last year.