Last updated: 6 March, 2012

Yemen soldier killed in new Qaeda assault

Al-Qaeda gunmen have killed a soldier on the edge of Yemen’s southwestern city of Bayda, the defence ministry said Tuesday, two days after a massive assault by the extremists killed scores of troops.

“The terrorist elements attacked security forces in Zaher checkpoint (late on Monday) killing the soldier Faisal Abas al-Sabri and wounding two others,” the ministry’s website said, identifying the assailants as “Al-Qaeda gunmen.”

“Security forces responded inflicting losses upon the ranks” of the extremists, it added.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the regional franchise of the jihadist network, claimed responsibility for the attack in text messages to AFP and said a total of three soldiers were killed and at least two military vehicles destroyed.

Bayda borders Abyan province, where an attack by suspected Al-Qaeda fighters on Sunday killed 103 soldiers and wounded scores in one of the deadliest assaults ever against Yemeni troops.

Attacks on security forces have spiralled since President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi pledged a crackdown on the militants in an inauguration speech last month as he replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh — who had ruled Yemen for 33 years.

The Al-Qaeda militants, who declare themselves the “Partisans of Sharia” (Islamic law), seized control of Abyan’s capital Zinjibar and several other towns in Yemen’s mostly lawless south last May as Saleh faced mass protests.

A Pentagon spokesman said on Monday the United States was “very concerned” about the latest killings but believed the new government would survive the assault.

“We view Yemen as a very important partner on counter-terrorism efforts and we’re also very concerned about the clashes that have taken place there, to include AQAP advances in certain parts in the country,” press secretary George Little told reporters.

Saleh, a US ally in its “war on terror”, handed power to Hadi based on a Gulf-brokered deal, which was hailed by world powers as Yemen’s only exit from a year long uprising that has left the country’s economy in tatters amid a deteriorating security situation.