ADEN Aug 6 Yemeni security forces killed at
least nine suspected al Qaeda militants on Wednesday when they
tried to ambush troops heading to eastern Yemen to bolster state
authority there, state media reported.
General Abdel-Rahman al-Halili, commander of the first
military district that includes the volatile Wadi Hadramout
region, escaped unharmed when his convoy was hit during a field
trip to his troops in the area, a regional official said.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) exploited a power
vacuum wrought by the 2011 uprising that eventually ousted
President Ali Abdullah Saleh to carve out areas of dominance in
south and east Yemen. Since then, AQAP has repeatedly attacked
state institutions, including army camps and state buildings
across the U.S.-allied country, killing hundreds of people.
Major powers are anxious to shore up the stability of Yemen,
which shares a long, indistinct border with No. 1 world oil
exporter Saudi Arabia, and whose coast gives onto major
international shipping lanes.
The state news agency Saba said government forces had foiled
three militant ambushes on the road from the Hadramout
provincial capital al-Mukalla to Seiyoun in the Wadi Hadramout
area - a distance of some 350 km (217 miles).
"The troops managed to eliminate more than nine terrorists
and captured three," the agency said, adding that a number were
also wounded while the rest fled.
The United States regards AQAP as one of the most active
wings of the militant network founded by the late Osama bin
Laden. Washington has stepped up its support for the government
and military with drone strikes at the heart of its strategy.
Saba said Halili, the first district military commander, was
on hand to greet troop reinforcements arriving in Seiyoun, but
made no mention of the reported attack on his convoy.
In a separate incident, suspected al Qaeda rebels ambushed a
military patrol in the Habban region in adjacent Shabwa province
and killed two soldiers.
Militants have killed at least nine soldiers in separate
attacks in south and eastern Yemen since last Saturday, local
officials said, as the government began sending more troops to
the east to confront the al Qaeda threat.
AQAP seeks to impose its radical version of Islamic law on
parts of Wadi Hadramout where government control is perceived to
be weakest. Residents said last month that leaflets had been
distributed in Seiyoun warning women not to go out without being
accompanied by a man.
The militants dispersed into more remote areas of south and
eastern Yemen in May after a military campaign drove them out of
their main strongholds in Shabwa and Abyan provinces.
They have launched a series of attacks on government
facilities in Hadramout over the past few months.
(Reporting by Mohamed Mukhashaf; Writing by Sami Aboudi#;
Editing by Mark Heinrich)