Last updated: 18 August, 2011

Yemen town seized by Qaeda gunmen

Suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen have seized control of the town of Shaqra in lawless Abyan province, a stronghold of the jihadist network in southern Yemen, a local official said on Thursday.

“Al-Qaeda fighters have attacked positions of armed tribesmen” tasked with defending the town on Wednesday, and have “managed to drive them away without any resistance,” the official told AFP.

Tribesmen backing government forces in the restive region had in mid-July chased the suspected Al-Qaeda militants from Shaqra.

The town lies 35 kilometres (20 miles) east of Zinjibar — the provincial capital that has been mostly under the control of suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen since late May.

The militants tried to advance to nearby villages after taking control of Shaqra but “their advance was halted by tribesmen, and clashes broke out,” a tribal source told AFP.

Yemeni tribesmen have in past weeks been locked in battle with suspected Al-Qaeda militants in Abyan, especially in Zinjibar.

The army has been battling the militants calling themselves Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), who have besieged its 25th Mechanised Brigade base in Zinjibar.

Apart from Shaqra and Zinjibar, Islamist gunmen control the village of Jaar.