x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Soldier killed in hit-and-run strike in southern Yemeni province

The incident is the latest in a string of bike-borne attacks by suspected al Qa'eda militants.

SANA'A // A Yemeni soldier was killed by a motorbike-borne attacker in the southern province of Abyan yesterday, an incident that marks an increase in hit-and-run attacks by suspected al Qa'eda militants.

According to local sources, Abduljabar al Qadasi hired a motorbike taxi in the city of Zinjibar to go to his house in the city's suburbs. The unidentified driver shot the soldier dead near a security checkpoint and drove away.

More than 15 security and intelligence officers have been killed in similar attacks by suspected al Qa'eda militants in recent months in Abyan.

Al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQPA), Yemen's al Qa'eda affiliate, issued in September a "death list" of 55 police officials.

Three people on the list had already been killed by militants in hit-and-run shootings.

According to security sources, the officers on the list who are not from Abyan have been transferred to work in other areas.

Abyan is considered to be one of the strongholds of al Qa'eda militants, which is also the site of recent confrontations between government troops and militants in which dozens have been killed and wounded.

"By using motorbikes, al Qa'eda would like to achieve an objective, which is hit and run without any loss, as this enables the militants to manoeuvre in alleys of the city without being hunted down," said Saeed Obaid al Jemhi, the head of al Jemhi Centre for Studies and Researches on terrorism and al Qa'eda.

He said the objective of the militants had been effective, as none of the attackers had been arrested.

With hit-and-run shootings on the rise, the authorities in October ordered some 2,000 two-wheelers off the streets of Abyan and enforced restrictions on their use in other areas.

Soldiers have been banned from using motorbike taxis but many continue to use them when off duty as they are the cheapest form of transport.

However, the restrictions were loosened after protests by motorbike taxi owners who complained that the ban would end their source of income.

"They could not ban them because the government is not able to compensate us with alternative jobs ... I support my family with seven children from my work on this motorbike," Mohammed Hussein, 36, from the capital, Sana'a, said yesterday.

Yemen said yesterday it was planning to train counterterrorism units in four provinces, where al Qa'eda militants have active presence. The elite units are to be established next year in the provinces of Shabwa, Abyan, Hadramaut and Marib and help "eradicate the scourge of terrorism," the Yemeni interior ministry said on its website.

The announcement comes after the United States on Friday urged Yemen to step up its fight against al Qa'eda militants in Yemen.

The counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, called on the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, "to emphasise the importance of taking action against al Qa'eda to thwart its plans to carry out terrorist attacks in Yemen as well as in other countries, including the US," the White House said in a statement.

Mr Brennan also "emphasised the need to strengthen the already close co-operation between Yemeni and US counterterrorism and security services ... including the timely acquisition of all relevant information from individuals arrested by Yemeni security forces," the White House said.

AQAP has been accused of being behind the attempted Christmas Day attack last year by a young Nigerian, who had reportedly studied in Yemen.

It also has claimed responsibility for a foiled air cargo bomb plot in October, in which printer toner cartridges that had been rigged as bombs were shipped out of Sana'a and, according to investigators, meant to explode over the US.



* with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse