Al Qaeda blamed for killing 8 Yemeni soldiers in attack on military camp
ADEN // Eight Yemeni soldiers were killed and others injured in the southern city of Zinjubar on Friday when militants launched an attack on their military camp.
A journalist based in Zinjubar told The National that members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) carried out the assault, which began when a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives close to the gates of Najda Camp.
“After the explosion, Al Qaeda fighters tried to storm the military camp but the forces confronted them and killed some,” said the journalist who did not want to be named for fear of being targeted by Aqap.
“Finally, after about half an hour of clashes, the [remaining] Al Qaeda fighters took [the bodies of the killed militants] and fled the area.”
He said some of the soldiers were killed by the explosion and others in the clashes.
Security officials said the suicide bomber, who was disguised as a driver carrying fire wood for cooking, failed to get inside the camp after soldiers stopped him. So he blew himself up at the gates instead.
Aqap did not claim responsibility for the attack, but the group is the only force currently fighting pro-government troops in Abyan province, the journalist said. Shiite Houthi rebels battling the Yemeni government took parts of the province in April 2015 but these were recaptured four months later by loyalist forces.
A local official said Aqap was suspected of being behind Friday’s attack.
Aqap has taken advantage of a more than two-year-long war between pro-government forces, backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, and the Houthis to entrench its presence in swathes of the south.
The militants now have a presence throughout Abyan province, said the journalist. Earlier this month they captured the districts of Lawdar and Shoqra from pro-government forces and also control other areas, including Al Maraqesha Mountains.
They are routinely seen on the streets of Zinjubar, the provincial capital, the journalist added, despite the fact that the city is under government control.
Al Qaeda’s presence in Abyan predates the war between the government and Houthis, however. In 2011 the group captured Zinjubar district and the neighbouring district of Ja’ar. The Yemeni government was unable to recapture these areas until local residents formed a popular resistance force and pushed the militants out the following year.
Further north on Friday, in the central province of Bayda, fierce clashes erupted between pro-government tribes and Houthi rebels, a local official said.
Twenty rebels and six tribal fighters were killed in heavy fighting near the district of Walad Rabi, the source said, adding that the clashes flared when the Houthis tried to take control of a tribal territory.
Nine other rebels died when tribal fighters ambushed their convoy in the Sawmaa region, another area of tension between rebels and local tribes, the official said.
* With additional reporting by Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters
Updated: February 24, 2017 04:00 AM