Militant raid on Yemen town leaves seven dead |
Gulf Times - 01 June, 2012
At least seven people were killed when fighters linked to Al Qaeda attacked Yemeni troops guarding a town briefly seized by the militants earlier this year, officials said yesterday.
The attack on Radda, a town in the al-Baydah province 170km southeast of Sanaa, comes amid a major Yemeni army offensive on militant strongholds further to the south.
The Yemeni Defence Ministry said four militants and three soldiers died during the attack late on Wednesday night.
Fighters linked to Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), briefly seized Radda in January but left the town after striking a deal with the authorities.
AQAP-linked Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic law) said Wednesday’s clash began after government troops surrounded the home of a resident named Nassr al-Hattam and pounded it with tank fire.
In an e-mailed statement, it said Ansar al-Sharia dispatched fighters who attacked troops surrounding the house and a Republican Guard checkpoint at the entrance of Radda. Several soldiers were killed or wounded, it said.
Washington has grown concerned over security in Yemen after militants overran several towns in the south of the country during a popular uprising last year that severely weakened central government authority and eventually toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The Yemeni army has since regained control of some parts of Abyan, including parts of the provincial capital Zinjibar, and surrounds the town of Jaar, another militant stronghold, Yemeni officials say.
Washington, which sees AQAP as a threat to international security, has thrown its weight behind Yemen’s new President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The United States has stepped up drone attacks against militants it suspects may be plotting against it. It has also renewed military training to help Yemeni security forces against Al Qaeda.
On Wednesday, an army official said 20 militants and seven soldiers died when government troops fought off an ambush by Islamist militants on the western edge of Jaar.
Yemen’s Zaidi Shia rebels have agreed to join a national dialogue aimed at easing the country out of a protracted political crisis, a commission in charge of the talks said yesterday.
“The Huthis have agreed to take part in a serious dialogue... to resolve the country’s problems and achieve the objectives of the popular revolution,” the commission said in a statement carried on the official Saba news agency.
Zaidi rebel chief, Abdel Malek al-Huthi, met members of the commission in his stronghold of Saada, in the north, and said he was ready to “take part in building a state for all the citizens of Yemen,” the commission said.
The rebels, also known as Huthis, launched an uprising against the regime of then president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2004 and for the next six years fought deadly battles with government troops.
A truce was signed in February 2010, capping a rebellion that claimed thousands of lives, but clashes with government troops and tribesmen continued off and on.
Saleh stepped down in February following a year of protests demanding his ouster, in line with a Gulf-brokered deal which also stipulated that the new government organise a national dialogue.
The Shia rebels in the north as well as secessionists in the south are expected to take part in the national dialogue with the new government, although no date has been announced for the talks.