At least five Yemeni soldiers have been killed in an attack by Al Qaeda linked militants in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan on Friday. A suicide attacker drove an explosives laden car to the gate of a Yemeni army base in the town of Ahwar. Other militants attacked soldiers in the base with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). At least 15 soldiers were wounded in the clashes. Local witnesses said a helicopter, apparently belonging to the Yemeni army, was circling in the vicinity.
The Yemeni army has been increasingly targeted by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula linked militants who oppose the central government in Sanaa which they view as a US client. AQAP is regarded by the United States as one of the most active wings of the militant network, posing a serious threat to Western interests including oil tanker traffic in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.
Last month, dozens of militants stormed and captured the headquarters of the Yemeni army’s Second Division in the eastern coastal city of al-Mukalla and seized some military personnel. Military officials said four Yemeni soldiers were killed and nine wounded in a counter-strike to retake the base. Yemen’s state news agency Saba reported on Thursday that a soldier was killed and two injured in militant attacks in al-Bayda province, south of the capital Sanaa. Saba said al Qaeda fighters suffered heavy losses and were forced to flee, but provided no details.
Militants took advantage of political chaos in Yemen during the Arab Spring uprising in 2011 to seize control of some towns in the south of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state.
They were subsequently beaten back by Yemeni armed forces, with assistance from the United States, and dispersed into smaller groups spread across the arid, rugged south.
But they have since carried out a series of attacks on important military and civilian targets, killing hundreds of soldiers and some senior officers, including Major General Salem Qatan, the Yemeni army commander in south Yemen.