Yemen army attacks Islamist stronghold, dozens dead

ADEN, Yemen Mon Jun 11, 2012 5:54pm EDT

Yemeni army forces fire a missile towards positions of al Qaeda-linked militants in the southern province of Abyan June 10, 2012. REUTERS/Yemen's Defence Ministry/ Handout

Yemeni army forces fire a missile towards positions of al Qaeda-linked militants in the southern province of Abyan June 10, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Yemen's Defence Ministry/ Handout

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ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - Yemeni warplanes and troops bombarded the Islamist militant stronghold of Jaar on Monday, officials and witnesses said, part of a U.S.-backed offensive in a country Washington sees as a front line in its war against al Qaeda.

At least 44 soldiers and militants were killed as the army launched its most serious assault on Jaar to date and also attacked positions near Shaqra, a coastal town on a major shipping route, and other areas, a Yemeni military official told Reuters.

Yemen is battling to retake towns and territory in the southern province of Abyan that were seized by militants linked to al Qaeda last year during a popular uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Washington, which helped engineer Saleh's replacement by his deputy, is supporting the campaign and has increased drone strikes on suspected al Qaeda members it believes may be plotting attacks from Yemen.

It has also sent dozens of military trainers and increased aid to Yemen where it wants President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to reunify the military and focus it against al Qaeda.

"The military has just started an assault from three different fronts in an attempt to enter Jaar," a military official said, adding armed tribesmen were supporting the troops.

The army fought militants overnight into Monday morning, driving them out of small villages and killing at least 28 fighters and six soldiers, the official said.

The official said he did not expect the army to enter the town on Monday because the feared the militants might have booby-trapped most of the surrounding roads.

Residents told Reuters the army used warplanes and artillery to attack the town centre.

The army was also gearing up to try to take the southern coastal town of Shaqra, the official said, adding eight militants and two soldiers were killed in clashes near the town. Shaqra is a gateway for Somalis entering Yemen to fight alongside al Qaeda.

The military's offensive has cut off supplies of food and medicine and forced thousands to flee their homes, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said last week. Tens of thousands were trapped inside towns like Jaar and Shaqra, the ICRC said.

Concerned about the humanitarian and security crisis in Yemen, Gulf Arab states and the West pledged more than $4 billion in aid to the impoverished state last month.

Separately, a Saudi Arabian national, Nasser Abdulaziz al-Mahiri, who was kidnapped six months ago by tribesmen in north Yemen, was released on Sunday after tribal mediation, Yemen's state news agency Saba said on its website.

Kidnappings of foreigners and Yemenis are common in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state, where hostages are often used by disgruntled tribesmen to press demands on authorities.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden and Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa; Writing by Rania El Gamal and Mahmoud Habboush; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Comments (2)
gregbrew56 wrote:
“Residents told Reuters the army used warplanes and artillery to attack the town centre.”

So, it’s “OK” to use artillery against towns in Yemen, but not in Syria?

How very curious!

Jun 11, 2012 3:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
QuidProQuo wrote:
All these flippin countries that had their US backed and encouraged uprisings and revolutions against their governments are now feeding off of us at the tune of billions of dollars in aid. Maybe Syria is totally justified in all that they are doing to prevent a total infiltration of radical extremists from getting a strong hold in their country. It seems totally sick to me that we back military attacks only for certain messed up and chaotic countries but are quick to criticize countries trying to maintain order and balance when they use their military to hold back the revolutionary radicals. I can almost guarantee that global security is going to be 10x worse now than it ever was and it’s all because of our support and encouragement of radical overthrows. When there is a weakened government where there was once a semi balanced government, it’s only logical that radical terrorists will take advantage of the weakness and form hyped up crazed groups of new militant terrorists. There’s more bands of fringe terrorists groups out there now than there ever was. Thank you Obama for going over there in the early weeks of your Presidency and getting the nut cases all worked up in the name of “democracy”. We are more exposed today than we ever were under Bush. And all we are doing is spending billions in US backed aid. So I wonder for how many years now all this level of “aid” spending will go on. Surely, the US doesn’t really believe that political stability is going to just take place quickly in these newly formed undefined governments in Yemen, Egypt, Libya, etc. do they? Oh, joy. More of the American dollar going overseas to sponsor and aid confused and chaotic countries. No wonder Obama is all hell bent on slamming through more taxes on the wealthy to support his overseas agenda.

Jun 14, 2012 10:23am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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