Last updated: 23 August, 2011

Six suspected Qaeda gunmen killed in south Yemen

Six suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen have been killed in the south Yemen province of Abyan in an air raid by government forces, a local official and a witness said on Tuesday.

The official said the six militants were killed on Monday as Yemeni forces raided several Al-Qaeda posts in the area of Arkub, which was overrun Sunday by armed men suspected of belonging to the jihadist network.

“I saw six bodies on the side of the road, half an hour after the raid,” said a witness.

Al-Qaeda gunmen have seized control of several areas in the lawless Abyan province, including the provincial capital Zinjibar, Jaar, and Shaqra.

Meanwhile, the body of a suspected suicide bomber was torn into pieces when a booby-trapped motorbike he was riding exploded early Tuesday in Lawder, according to tribal sources.

Tribesmen siding with government forces are battling Islamist militants in Abyan, mainly in Zinjibar, where militants have besieged the army’s 25th Mechanised Brigade base since May.

The international community has expressed fears that the power vacuum in the impoverished country could play into the hands of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the local branch of the network.

AQAP was behind several attacks, including the failed Christmas Day attempt to blow a US airliner over Detroit in 2009.

Yemen has been gripped by political turmoil since an uprising against the 33-year-old rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, now recovering from bomb blast wounds, erupted in January.

Hundreds have died in battles between security forces and protesters, and between security forces and Al-Qaeda fighters.