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At least 60 soldiers killed in fighting with al-Qaida in southern Yemen: official

04-10-2012 09:01 BJT

SANAA, April 9 (Xinhua) -- Militants of the Yemen-based al-Qaida wing on Monday attacked several barracks of the army forces in Yemen's southern province of Abyan, which sparked deadly clashes that left at least 60 soldiers killed and dozens of others injured, local government officials and tribal chiefs told Xinhua.

Fierce battles erupted between the government troops backed by tribal fighters and the al-Qaida militants after the terrorist group attacked several barracks of the 111th and 119th Armored Brigades in the outskirts of Lauder town, about 150 km northeast of Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, a local government official said on condition of anonymity.

Dozens of tribal fighters then joined with the army soldiers and managed to foil the attacks by the al-Qaida network that was attempting to boost its presence in Abyan and take over control of Lauder town, the official said.

Meanwhile, an official in Abyan's neighboring province of Aden told Xinhua by phone that "according to the latest security report from the ongoing battles with al-Qaida in Lauder town, we have lost at least 60 soldiers from the 111th Armored Army Brigade."

Five senior army officers were killed in the battles, he said, adding that the offensive in Lauder town was the third of its kind in less than three months by the al-Qaida fighters.

Local residents in Abyan said that Yemeni warplanes also bombed some positions of the al-Qaida militants following the gun battles which still continued on Monday night.

The Yemeni defense ministry said in a statement on Monday night that 40 al-Qaida fighters were killed in the battles in Abyan.

However, the resurgent al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a statement on Monday night, saying that "four of their fighters were killed in the clashes, and 16 others were wounded."

The attacks against the military barracks which started a day- long fighting aimed at taking over control of Lauder town, it said, adding that it had seized a large quantity of heavy weapons from the army.

"We managed to capture all the outskirts of Lauder town and seized three sites belonging to the government troops. We also besiege the town in which many government troops were trapped," the AQAP said, vowing to break into the town and killed the soldiers inside.

Earlier in the day, a security official in Aden told Xinhua that the death toll from both sides reached 23 and dozens of others were wounded.

A military official in neighboring Lahj province told Xinhua anonymously that the 201st Brigade nearby had sent armored vehicles to support the army barracks in Lauder town.

"Scores of the al-Qaida insurgents were armed with RPGs, heavy machine guns and grenades. They want to seize the Lauder town. But tribal fighters and the soldiers could defeat them," a tribal chief told Xinhua anonymously.

"But we fear that al-Qaida may launch suicide bomb attacks against our checkpoints in retaliation after the deadly clashes," the tribal chief said.

On the same day, two gunmen ambushed a patrol of the Yemeni security forces in the southern port city of Aden, killing one policeman and injuring three others, a police officer in Aden told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The three injured policemen were in critical condition, he added.

Taking advantage of the one-year-long political conflicts in Yemen, the resurgent AQAP, locally known as Ansar al-Sharia ( Partisans of Islamic Law), has taken control of several cities and swathes across the country's restive southern provinces. Yemen's newly-elected President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said fighting the AQAP tops his daily agenda.

On Sunday, Yemeni-U.S. joint air raids bombed al-Qaida hideouts in Abyan province, killing at least 16 militants, the defense ministry said on its website.

The warplanes also launched another strike on al-Qaida targets in neighboring province of Shabwa, killing up to eight militants. However, the terrorist group denied anyone of its fighters were killed in the Shabwa air raid.

U.S. drones and Yemeni warplanes have regularly targeted the AQAP in southern Yemeni regions, which were seized by the group in May 2011 following a surge of violence, killing and injuring scores of terrorists.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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