December 31, 2013 / 12:30 AM / 6 years ago

Armed men attack Yemen police headquarters, wounding seven

ADEN (Reuters) - Armed men including a suicide bomber tried to storm police headquarters in southern Yemen’s main city on Tuesday, wounding seven policemen, state media reported.

The men tried to force their way into the compound in Aden in several cars, with the bomber blowing himself up in one of the vehicles which was packed with explosives, news agency SABA said.

They exchanged gunfire with police, who prevented the attackers from entering the building, SABA quoted Najeeb Maghlas, deputy general director of security in Aden, as saying.

Security sources earlier told Reuters police averted another suicide bombing attempt on the same building, and they had arrested two people who admitted links to al Qaeda.

Another explosion struck a police training camp in another part of the city, causing no casualties, the Reuters sources also said.

Hundreds of police, soldiers and other security officials have died in explosions and shootings over the past two years in southern Yemen, where the government and allied tribal militias are fighting against Islamist militants allied to al Qaeda.

Security in Yemen is a concern for the United States and Gulf Arab countries, given its location next to the biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia and major shipping routes for crude through the Red Sea.

This month al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of the movement, said it was behind an assault on a Defense Ministry complex in the capital Sanaa in which more than 50 people were killed.

People gather at the scene of a car bomb attack on a police compound in the southern Yemeni city of Aden December 31, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

The main Islamist militant group, Ansar al-Sharia, took advantage of political chaos during protests in 2011 inspired by the Arab Spring to seize control of several cities in southern areas. The group was repulsed by government forces backed by U.S. drones the following year.

But the insurgents have since regrouped and mounted attacks on government officials and installations.

Yemen also faces deep-rooted poverty, a southern separatist movement, divisions within the army and fighting between Salafi Sunni Muslims and members of the Houthi movement, representing Zaydi Shi’ites, in the country’s north.

Reporting By Mohammad Mukhashaf in Aden; Additional reporting by Mohammad Ghobari in Sanaa; Writing By Maha El Dahan; Editing by Rania El Gamal, John Stonestreet

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