103 Yemeni troops killed in clashes with Qaeda rebels
AFP ADEN MORE than 100 Yemeni soldiers have been killed in clashes with suspected Al Qaeda gunmen after the extremists attacked military positions in Yemen’s restive south, medics said on Monday.
Sunday’s assault was one of the single deadliest against Yemeni troops, and the latest in a spate of attacks against security forces since President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi pledged to destroy the militant group in last month’s inauguration speech.
A medical official at the military hospital in the southern port city of Aden, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said “the death toll... has risen to at least 103” soldiers.
He said “many soldiers died from wounds sustained in the assault” on army posts on the outskirts of Zinjibar, Abyan’s provincial capital where Qaeda militants are in control. A military official, who also declined to be identified, said Al Qaeda militants were responsible for the “surprise attack,” saying “it was a massacre.” Another medic said hospital staff were overwhelmed by the number of casualties.
“We were forced to use administrative offices and waiting rooms to treat the wounded,” he told AFP, declining to be named.
“The hospital was packed full with dead and injured” soldiers.
Army officials had reported fierce clashes on Sunday when suspected Al- Qaeda militants tried to overrun an army post in Kud, just south of Zinjibar. The violence then spread to other military positions on the outskirts of the city. At least 25 Al Qaeda gunmen were killed in Sunday’s fighting and several others wounded, a local official from the nearby militant stronghold of Jaar said. He said that at least 56 soldiers were captured by Al Qaeda, including seven army officers and 10 wounded soldiers. The militants, known in Yemen as the Partisans of Sharia , took control of Zinjibar and several other towns in Yemen’s mostly lawless south last May as former president Ali Abdullah Saleh faced mass protests demanding his ouster.
The military official, who was on the ground during Sunday’s attack, said that troops from the Kud base were “surprised” to see the militants carrying army issue weapons and using military vehicles.
Soldiers who survived the attack accused some army leaders who had served under Saleh of “collaborating” with Al Qaeda. The violence highlights the security challenges facing Yemen’s new president as he tries to restore order in troubled regions and unify the country’s armed forces, as stipulated by a Gulf-brokered transition accord that ended Saleh’s 33-year rule over Yemen.