ISIL militants kill 15 Yemeni government soldiers
ADEN // ISIL militants killed 15 government soldiers in attacks on two checkpoints in Yemen’s eastern Hadramawt province on Friday.
Nineteen militants were killed and a number of soldiers and civilians injured in the morning attacks in Shibam and Al Qaten districts, according to the army and medical sources.
ISIL claimed the attacks in statements posted online, saying it killed nearly 50 Yemeni troops and police, and that one of its members had died in a car suicide bombing during the fighting.
The first attack, in which the 15 soldiers were killed, targeted a checkpoint in Al Qarah area of Shibam, a Unesco heritage site known for its high-rise mud brick buildings.
The militants began shooting at soldiers at the checkpoint and then detonated a suicide car bomb, said Mohammed Al Sharafi, a journalist based in the nearby Seiyon district of Hadramawt who visited the scene of the attack.
"More than 20 civilians injured by the explosion as parts of their houses were damaged,” Mr Al Sharafi said.
The second attack targeted a checkpoint in Al Qaten district but caused no deaths among the military.
Both checkpoints are operated by the Yemen army’s first military region, which is in charge of Hadramawt, Socotra and other eastern provinces and is loyal to Yemeni president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.
Large areas of Hadramawt province have been under the control of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) since earlier this year, including the provincial capital and port city of Al Mukallah. The Yemen-based branch of the terror group capitalised on a security vacuum as the army and resistance forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition seeking to restore Mr Hadi’s government fought to put down an uprising by Houthi rebels and their allies from renegade units of the military loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The military under Mr Hadi had fought fierce battles with Aqap before the uprising but the group’s attacks on the army stopped after it seized Hadrawmat’s capital and coastal areas.
The Shibam and Al Qaten districts are under the control of the military, but Shibam has a strong presence of Aqap fighters.
This is the first time ISIL has claimed responsibility for an attack on the army in Hadramawt. Observers say the attack could indicate ISIL is growing in strength in the province and suggests an impending battle with Aqap.
“Some members of Aqap in Hadramawt have started to join ISIL and there may be disputes between Aqap, which controls Al Mukallah, and the members of ISIL,” Mr Al Sharafi said.
Political analyst Fadhl Al Rabei, head of the Madar centre for strategic studies think tank in Aden told The National that ISIL targeting the army in Hadramawt was a clear indication there would be a confrontation between Aqap and ISIL.
“The fighters of ISIL in Hadramawt emerged from Aqap, and that means they do not believe in the Aqap rule anymore, even if Hadramawt is a stronghold of Aqap. For this reason there will be confrontation,” he said.
Meanwhile, pro-government forces halted their advance on all fronts in Taez province on Friday after the Houthis heavily mined roads to Taez city.
However, the coalition kept up its air strikes against the rebels, who continue to shell civilian areas in the city, killing 8 civilians and wounding 11 others on Thursday.
The same day, both parents and all four children of a family were killed in rebel shelling of Al Deem village on Saber mountain, Sky News Arabia reported.
In London, hundreds of Yemenis gathered at the Saudi Arabian Consulate General’s compound to show their support and gratitude for the Arab coalition’s efforts to restore the country’s legitimate government.
The demonstrators held up slogans reading “Thank you Emirates of benevolence’’ and “Thank you the Kingdom of Decisiveness”, as well as photographs of UAE and Saudi leaders and flags of the two countries.
* With reporting from Wam