Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility on Wednesday for an attack on an army camp in southern Yemen that killed 185 soldiers, in what soldiers have condemned as an “inside job.”
On Sunday, “the mujahedeen carried out a series of operations … against government forces deployed at the entrances of Zinjibar,” capital of Abyan province, said the group’s Yemeni branch.
The extremists claimed that “around 100 soldiers and officers were killed while 12 others were wounded and 73 held captive” in these attacks.
Military officials and medics had told AFP that 185 soldiers were killed on Sunday when Islamist militants attacked the army camp in Kud, a town in Abyan.
The militants said they seized a tank, anti-aircraft weapons, a rocket launcher, rockets and 11 Kalashnikov assault rifles, as well as three military vehicles and “a large amount of ammunition.”
They also claimed to have destroyed two tanks and burned an ammunition store.
The official, who was at the scene during Sunday’s attack, said troops from the Kud base were “surprised” to see the militants carrying army issued weapons and using military vehicles.
Soldiers who survived the attack accused some army leaders who had served under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh of “collaborating” with Al-Qaeda.
General Ali Mansur, a former secretary at the defence ministry, said the assailants arrived by sea from the Gulf of Aden and seized military equipment of the National Guard to launch the assault.
It was an apparent “inside job,” he said. “The operation was well planned and based on precise intelligence. It was carried out by well-trained armed groups.”
Mansur charged that it was carried out “in direct coordination with the former commander of the southern military region, General Mehdi Maqola,” citing accounts from soldiers who survived the raid.
New President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi last week named General Salem Ali Qatan to head the 31st Armoured Brigade in southern Yemen, replacing Maqola, a Saleh loyalist.
Also on Sunday, “the mujahedeen blew up a Yemeni air force plane at Dulaimi army base that was transporting weapons to Aden and Hadramawt” provinces, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said in a statement.
“The blast took place after (the militants) sneaked into the base and planted an explosive device in the plane,” it said.
An airport technician had told AFP at the time that a “mysterious” blast ripped through a Yemeni military plane at Dulaimi base, near Sanaa international airport, without causing any casualties.
In Wednesday’s statement, AQAP claimed responsibility for a string of attacks on security forces across the lawless south and southeast of the restive country.
It accused Sanaa of “launching wars on those who want to implement Sharia (Islamic) law in its attempt to please the United States and the crusader West … while holding talks with all (other) parties, including the Shiite Huthis who are killing Sunnis,” a reference to rebels in Yemen’s north.
The attacks claimed by AQAP came after Hadi took office on February 25, pledging in his inaugural speech to crack down on the militants.
The violence highlights the security challenges facing Hadi as he tries to restore order and unify the country’s armed forces, as stipulated by a Gulf-brokered transition accord that ended Saleh’s 33-year rule.
State news agency Saba quoted Hadi on Tuesday as saying: “We are determined to confront terror with all our strength whatever the price. We will track them to their last hideout.”