Sanaa: Al Qaeda-linked militants on Saturday staged
a surprise attack on a Yemeni army base in the south, setting
off clashes that left 30 dead on both sides before air strikes
forced the militants to retreat, military officials said.
The attack reflects how al Qaeda`s branch in Yemen has
exploited the political and security turmoil following the
country`s yearlong uprising, managing to take control of large
swaths of land in the south and staging increasingly bold
attacks on the military.
The militants have overran cities and towns as the
government focused its efforts on protecting the regime in the
capital during protests against former President Ali Abdullah
Saleh`s replacement, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has made
fighting al Qaeda one of his top priorities, but many Yemenis
accuse the ousted president, whose loyalists are still
influential in the military and in government bodies, of
undercutting security operations and the new president`s
In today`s clashes, army officials said the militants
attacked the base in al-Mallah town in southern Lahj province.
The town is close to Abyan province, an al Qaeda stronghold.
The army fought back and by the time fighter jets were
called in and forced the militants to retreat, 17 soldiers and
13 militants were dead.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because
they were not authorized to speak to the media. Al-Mallah is
adjacent to Abyan province, an al Qaeda stronghold.
The latest clashes come as Washington appears to be
increasingly involved in fighting al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula, as the Yemeni branch is known and which is believed
to have plotted two failed attacks on American soil.
Yesterday, unmanned US drones targeted al Qaeda positions
inside Shabwa province, another militant hideout, killing four
militants, Yemeni officials said.
There was no immediate comment from US officials, but
Washington has carried out deadly airstrikes in Yemen in the
past. Last year, a US drone strike killed US-born militant
cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and a second American, Samir Khan, an
al Qaeda propagandist.