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Al-Qaeda attack kills 19 soldiers in Yemen

Al-Qaeda gunmen killed 19 soldiers in an attack on an army base in southern Yemen Friday, security officials said, a day after deadly assaults by rebels and a jihadist bomber.

Yemenis walk past a crater at the site of a suicide car bombing on a police station in Sheikh Othman district, in Yemen’s government-held second city Aden, on August 1, 2019. – Separate attacks by Shiite rebels and a jihadist suicide bomber killed at least 27 people in Yemen’s government-held second city Aden, many of them newly trained police cadets, security and medical sources said. (Photo by Nabil HASAN / AFP)

Al-Qaeda gunmen killed 19 soldiers in an attack on an army base in southern Yemen Friday, security officials said, a day after deadly assaults by rebels and a jihadist bomber.

The gunmen stormed Al-Mahfad base in Abyan province and remained inside for several hours before military reinforcements came, three security officials told AFP, adding that the soldiers were killed in clashes with the jihadists.

“The Qaeda gunmen took advantage of what happened (Thursday) in Aden and launched an assault on Al-Mahfad base and clashed with soldiers,” a government security official said.

“Military reinforcements were sent… and the gunmen were killed while others were driven out with air support from the (Saudi-led) coalition, in an operation that lasted hours,” the official said.

“At least 19 soldiers were killed and others wounded.”

The other two officials confirmed both the details and the death toll.

Security analyst Aleksandar Mitreski said the attacks “seem opportunistic”.

“Al-Qaeda has neither the capability nor the strategic appetite to open a new front in south Yemen,” Matreski who is also a researcher at the University of Sydney told AFP.

“We may see other sporadic attacks in the future motivated by Al-Qaeda’s desire to remain a relevant actor in the Yemeni conflict.”

The Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Islamic State group and other jihadists have flourished in the chaos of the civil war between the government and the Shiite Huthi rebels.

The United States considers AQAP the global jihadist network’s most dangerous branch and has waged a long-running drone war against its leaders.

On Thursday, separate attacks by the Huthis and jihadists hit security forces in Yemen’s second city, Aden, killing at least 49 people, many of them newly trained police cadets, officials said.

‘Intelligence operation’
The first attack was a suicide car bombing carried out by jihadists on a police station that killed 13 police officers and wounded several others, a security source said.

The second attack was carried out by the Huthis, who said they launched a drone and a ballistic missile at a training camp west of Aden, that killed 39 people.

The aerial attack hit as senior commanders were overseeing a passing out parade for newly graduated cadets at Al-Jala Camp, 20 kilometres (13 miles) from the centre of Aden.

The missile struck about five metres (yards) from the viewing platform and a senior commander was among the dead, an AFP photographer reported.

Aden is controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognised government and its supporters in the Saudi-led military coalition, which has been fighting the Iran-aligned rebels since 2015.

The Huthis claimed responsibility for the drone and missile attack on Al-Jala training camp.

The Islamic State group said it was responsible for the suicide bombing on the police station, in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

The Yemeni government said Thursday the “source and purpose (of the attacks) were the same”.

“The two attacks prove the Huthi militia rebels and other terrorist groups are sharing roles and complementing each other in a war against the Yemeni people,” a statement said.

A Huthi rebel spokesman told AFP that Thursday’s attack was an “intelligence operation” in which “a new kind of missile that we have not unveiled was used as well as a drone that provided support in a big way.”

In recent months, the rebels have hit back with missile and drone attacks targeting neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Repeated UN peace efforts, including an accord reached in Sweden in December, have failed to end the fighting.

The conflict has killed and wounded tens of thousands of people and resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths voiced concern on Thursday about the latest escalation.

“I call on parties to honour their commitment to peace and put more efforts towards a political solution to the conflict,” he tweeted.

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