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Middle East
Yemeni soldiers killed in suicide blasts
Military outposts in Zinjibar targeted by suspected al-Qaeda-linked fighters in the latest of a string of attacks.
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2012 15:25
 

Fierce clashes between the Yemeni army and al-Qaeda in the country's south have killed at least 12 militants and nine soldiers, according to medics and officials said.

"The hospital has received the bodies of six soldiers," said a medic at Bashib hospital in the southern city of Aden, after military officials said an al-Qaeda bid to overrun an army post in Kud, in Abyan province, sparked a firefight.

Six wounded soldiers were also brought to the military facility. A military official, who said the army held onto Kud, confirmed the toll but an Al-Arabiya reporter has put the number of killed people in the fighting at 44.

The official did say there were other casualties among the army who have not been taken out of the area. A local official in Kud told the AFP news agency that al-Qaeda gunmen had taken away the bodies of three other soldiers they had killed.

Another local official in Jaar, a nearby extremist stronghold, said 12 al-Qaeda members died in the firefight and that 30 soldiers, 10 of them wounded, were captured.

Another army official said the militants also seized heavy weapons before pulling back to Zinjibar, accusing some army leaders who had served under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh of "collaborating" with al-Qaeda.

It was the latest in a spate of attacks against security forces since President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi took over from Saleh and was sworn in on February 25 under a Gulf-brokered transition accord.

Restructuring army

On Friday, Hadi, who must restructure the army during his two-year interim period in power, named General Salem Ali Qatan to head the 31st Armoured Brigade in southern Yemen.

The post had been held for decades by General Mahdi Maqola, known for his close ties to Saleh and accused of corruption.

Zinjibar has fallen mostly under the control of al-Qaeda militants since May at a time that protests were raging across the country against Saleh's 33-year rule.

On the day Hadi was sworn in, vowing to carry on Saleh's fight against the network, an al-Qaeda suicide bomber blew up his vehicle outside a presidential palace in the southeastern province of Hadramawt killing 26 soldiers.

Late on Saturday, hours after a similar suicide attack killed a Republican Guard soldier in southwest Yemen, suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen shot dead a police officer Colonel Shaef al-Nahmi, also in Hadramawt, a security official told AFP.

Separately on Sunday, Abdullah Idris, the head of Saleh's General People's Congress party branch in Rada, a town southeast of Sanaa, was "seriously" wounded when his car exploded, a military official said.

His two companions were also wounded in the blast in Rada, which Al-Qaeda briefly captured in mid-January, the same source said.

Saleh had declared himself a US ally in its "war on terror" but some of his opponents accused him of exaggerating the al-Qaeda threat in a bid to win Western support to cling to power.

Critics charge he may even have deliberately surrendered cities such as Zinjibar.

Source:
Agencies
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