x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Militants storm Yemen's intelligence headquarters

Eleven people were killed yesterday when heavily armed men believed to be al Qa'eda militants stormed the intelligence headquarters in Yemen's port city of Aden.

SANA'A // Eleven people were killed yesterday when heavily armed men believed to be al Qa'eda militants stormed the intelligence headquarters in Yemen's port city of Aden. According to security officials and eyewitnesses, four men armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, stormed the central courtyard of the building in the morning and fought their way into its detention facility, where suspected al Qa'eda detainees are held.

The state's top security committee said in a statement that seven security personnel, three women and a seven-year-old boy were killed when "terrorist elements stormed the main gate of [the intelligence building] using rifles and grenades against the security guards". The security committee did not say if any of the attackers were reported dead. The committee did not say how many people were wounded. But the al Motamar website of the ruling party, the People's General Congress, said at least nine people were injured.

The committee condemned the attack, describing it as "terrorist" and carries "the fingerprints of al Qa'eda". It did not comment on reports that the assailants managed to free their prisoners. But, an eyewitness who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said in a phone interview from Aden that the gunmen escaped with some detainees they freed from the building. He said he was unsure of how many prisoners had escaped, but that he saw prisoners getting into a minibus.

The eyewitness, who lives near the headquarters, said security sealed off the area and launched a search operation, arresting suspects in the neighbourhood. The attack came a day after al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula threatened to respond to a government crackdown against its fighters in eastern Yemen. Mohammed Saif Haidar, a terrorism analyst at the Sana'a-based Saba Strategic Studies Centre, said the attack was a "significant security setback".

"This blatant attack is a brazen challenge to the security agencies in charge of fighting terrorism. It is an important security setback, particularly it came after the al Qa'eda threat to 'light up the ground with fire'. The battle with al Qa'eda will be long and therefore, the government has to take this into account, adopting both soft and hard policies in this fight," Mr Haidar said. @Email:malqadhi@thenational.ae