A Yemen army outpost in the country’s south was overwhelmed by Islamic militants who killed dozens of soldiers and looted the base of its heavy weaponry and armored vehicles
The attack on the Al Koud base left 103 soldiers and 25 militants dead, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the army hospital in Aden. An army official, declining to be identified because he’s not authorized to speak to media, said earlier that about 60 soldiers were killed and dozens more captured and taken to the city of Jaar, which is under the militants’ control.
Yemen’s President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi, who replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh last month as part of a power-transfer accord, was bequeathed one of the world’s worst-performing economies and a political landscape that includes secessionist movements in the north and south, street protesters demanding more change, and al-Qaeda militants who control entire towns and have used Yemen as a base to attack targets in neighboring Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
The attacked was carried out by gunmen from Ansar al- Sharia, which means ‘Supporters of Islamic Law’ and whose members have claimed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda. Yemen’s army recaptured the military post, according to a statement on the defense ministry website. The statement didn’t specify how many people were killed.
No. 1 Threat
“Al-Qaeda in Yemen is taking advantage of the post- election environment in order to remind the new government that they are still the number one threat to the unity of the country and that their expansion of operations is an indicator of how weak the government is,” said Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.
The Akhbar al-Youm daily newspaper said more than 70 soldiers were killed and 30 others wounded in the battle. About 56 soldiers were captured by the militants, according to the newspaper.
Hadi was elected unopposed on Feb. 21 as part of an internationally backed transition plan. The fighting comes after Brigadier Madhi Maqoulaa, commander of the southern region and a loyalist to Saleh, was removed from his post by Hadi. Militants have controlled parts of Abyan since May.
Brigadier General Mohammed al-Darwi, former deputy chief of operations at the Defense Ministry, accused military officials loyal to Saleh of colluding with the militants by not providing air support to stop the looting of the base, according to Akhbar al-Youm newspaper.
The $40 billion economy shrank by at least 5 percent in 2011, Saadaldeen Talib, industry and trade minister in the interim government that took over in December, said in a Feb. 17 interview in Sana’a.