Clashes between al-Qaeda, Yemeni army leave 70 dead

Clashes between al-Qaeda, Yemeni army leave 70 dead

Clashes between al-Qaeda, Yemeni army leave 70 dead

A militant suspected of being a member of al-Qaeda sits at a checkpoint in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa. AFP photo

Al-Qaeda militants killed eight Yemeni soldiers yesterday in an attack on a make-shift military post on a desert road in the country’s mostly lawless eastern provinces, bringing the death toll in clashes over to 70 in two days.

“Al-Qaeda militants attacked a military position on the road between Hadramawt and Marib province (in the east), killing eight soldiers,” the official said requesting anonymity. He said at least four other soldiers were wounded in the attack.

Al-Qaeda gunmen attacked the soldiers just after dawn with “automatic weapons,” the official added. The attack is the latest in a deadly week of battles between Yemeni security forces and Al-Qaeda linked militants that have strengthened their presence in the country’s south and east in the wake of the year-long uprising that eventually toppled former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

On April 9, at least 60 people were killed when Al-Qaeda militants raided a barracks in the southern Abyan province city of Lawder. Residents and military officials said 40 militants were killed in the clashes. Additionally, 18 soldiers, including a colonel, were killed battling the militants, officials said. Six civilians allied with the army were also reported killed.

Yemen’s military in the south, poorly equipped and low on morale after a series of defeats, has not been able to fight the group and its supporters alone. In cities like Lawder, residents have become fed up with the government’s inability to protect them and, in a country where tribes posses weapons, have taken up arms to protect themselves.

The military said it used artillery to pound al-Qaeda from a distance, but local civilians appear to have done much of the close-in fighting. The attack on Lawder followed a series of air strikes that killed 24 suspected Al-Qaeda militants in their southern and eastern strongholds.

The city of Lawder is located some 150 kilometers northeast of Zinjibar, the Abyan provincial capital which the al-Qaeda linked Partisans of Sharia militants overran in May last year. Al-Qaeda briefly overran Lawder in August 2010 before being driven out by the army. The United States considers the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) the most deadly and active branch of the global terror network.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.