SANA’A: Suspected Al Qaeda fighters killed at least 56 soldiers and police in a wave of dawn attacks yesterday, the deadliest day for Yemeni security forces since jihadist strongholds fell last year.
The militant assaults came in the lawless southern province of Shabwa, a bastion of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the scene of regular US drone attacks targeting militants.
Military and government officials said there were four attacks in all, including one on a key gas export terminal that was foiled.
Thirty-eight soldiers were killed in the deadliest attack, on an army camp responsible for ensuring security at Shabwa oilfields, sources said.
“Troops clashed with gunmen at the camp entrance, before a suicide attacker in a bomb-laden vehicle forced his way into the camp, where his car exploded, killing 38 soldiers,” said a government official in Ataq, the provincial capital.
Simultaneously, “a suicide bomber in a car blew himself up before reaching his target — an army checkpoint” in the nearby Al Nushaima area, a military official said, adding that 10 soldiers were killed in that blast.
“Soldiers were captured” in Al Nushaima, witnesses said by phone.
Around 15 kilometres away, suspected Al Qaeda gunmen targeted a special forces camp at Maifaa, killing eight policemen, according to military sources.
At least eight militants, among them two suicide bombers, were reported killed in the three attacks.
The defence ministry in Sanaa said a fourth Al Qaeda attempt to detonate explosives targeting Balhaf gas terminal on the Gulf of Aden ended in failure.
Security Forces intercepted the vehicle, which exploded, “killing the terrorists it was carrying,” said the ministry’s 26sep.net news website, without specifying how many militants died.
The authorities blamed the bloodshed on AQAP, described by Washington as the jihadist network’s deadliest franchise.
AQAP claimed that attack in a statement posted on jihadist Internet forums.