SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A suspected Al-Qaida attack in southern Yemen killed a military commander and three soldiers from a secessionist group on Thursday, security officials and an eyewitness said.
Commander Abd Al-Latif al-Sayyid and the three soldiers from the Security Belt Forces, a fighting group loyal to Yemen’s secessionist Southern Transitional Council, were killed in an explosion while traveling in a convoy through southern Abyan province, the three officials and witness said.
The four said they believed the Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula group was responsible for the attack but provided no further details. All spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.
The separatist council is backed by the United Arab Emirates and controls most of Yemen’s south. It is at odds with the internationally recognized government, and has repeatedly called for the south Arabian country to be split into two like it was between 1967 and 1990.
AQAP has not claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack but is active in Abyan province and regularly carries out ambushes against Yemeni forces. AQAP is seen as one of the more dangerous branches of the terror network.
Earlier this month, security officials told the AP that AQAP militants killed five troops from the Southern Armed Forces, a large force loyal to the Southern Transitional Council.
Last month, suspected AQAP militants clashed with forces of the secessionist council in the province of Shabwa. At least two troops and one militant were killed.
Yemen’s ruinous civil war began in 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen and forced the government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition including the UAE intervened the next year to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power.
AQAP has since exploited the country’s yearslong conflict to cement its presence in the improvised nation.