Gunmen kill four soldiers, officer in Yemen checkpoint raid

ADEN, Yemen Fri Apr 4, 2014 11:56am EDT

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ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - Gunmen believed to be linked to al Qaeda killed four soldiers and an officer at a checkpoint on Friday in southeastern Yemen, a local official said.

Two other soldiers were wounded in the attack on the checkpoint outside al-Qatan, one of the largest cities in Hadramout province, the official told Reuters.

The Yemeni Interior Ministry said on its website that "terrorist elements" attacked a checkpoint operated by soldiers, causing deaths and injuries, but gave no specific figures.

"Forces from the 37th Armoured Brigade are pursuing the perpetrators of this cowardly terrorist attack," the ministry said in a statement.

Six soldiers, 10 suspected militants and a 10-year-old boy died earlier this week in a coordinated attack by a suicide bomber and militant fighters on the headquarters of the army's Fourth Division in Aden, which controls southern Yemen.

Yemen is struggling to restore state authority in the Western-allied country, where one of the most active branches of al Qaeda has exploited political turmoil that began in 2011 when Arab Spring protests forced veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

Yemen, a country of 25 million people which shares a long border with the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, is also grappling with a secessionist movement in the south and a rebellion by Shi'ite Muslims in the north.

No one claimed responsibility for the latest raid, which the local official said took place shortly after Friday noon prayers.

"The attack carries the fingerprints of al Qaeda," the official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters by telephone.

It appeared to mirror a raid last week, also in Hadramout province, in which 20 soldiers were killed.

The Yemeni interior minister suspended senior security officials in Hadramout after that attack, state news agency Saba reported at the time.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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