Saturday, March 31, 2012

Al-Qaida militants seize military site in Yemen's restive south, 28 killed

Yemen division 2012-3-11
Yemen division 2012-3-11 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
ADEN, Yemen, March 31 (Xinhua) -- Militants of the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch seized a military site after deadly confrontations with government troops, leaving at least 20 army soldiers and eight militants killed in the volatile southern province of Lahj on Saturday, an army officer told Xinhua.

Up to 20 militants stormed an army barrack of the 201st Mechanized Army Brigade in the northwestern suburbs of the insurgents-controlled town of Jaar in Lahj province, killing at least 20 soldiers and setting off two explosions at the military site after the retreat of the army troops, the local army officer said on condition of anonymity.

During the fighting, at least eight al-Qaida militants were killed and dozens of others from both sides injured, the officer said.

After three hours of fierce fighting, Yemeni army forces left the army base and retreated from the region, he said.

In a text message sent to Xinhua on Saturday, an al-Qaida spokesman said the terrorist group killed a total of 30 soldiers in the attack that targeted the army site.

"During the battle, our holy war fighters attacked an army base, killing more than 30 soldiers and many others surrendered... we managed to seize the base along with its heavy weaponry, tanks and armored vehicles," the message said.

Al-Qaida militants who took advantage of the conflicts in the country have seized several towns in Abyan and Shabwa provinces after severe fighting with government troops backed by U.S. drones.

In January 2009, al-Qaida affiliates in Saudi Arabia and Yemen officially merged and formed Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula ( AQAP).

The group, mainly entrenching itself in Yemen's southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, is on the terrorist list of the United States, which considers it as an increasing threat to its national security.

The AQAP underscores the challenges faced by Yemen's new President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who won support from major Yemeni political forces, the United States and Saudi Arabia.

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