Suspected militants kill seven soldiers in Yemen


ADEN/SANAA – Al-Qaeda is successfully exploiting splits within Yemen’s armed forces, defence minister Mohammad Naser Ahmed warned yesterday, as suspected Islamist militants killed seven soldiers in the second such attack in two days.

The Yemeni military split last year during protests against the 33-year rule of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, with some forces remaining loyal and others joining the opposition.

Briefing parliament on raids that have resulted in the deaths of almost 200 soldiers since Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office in February, Mr Ahmed said jostling for power and logistical difficulties were helping the militants.

“The army is divided,” he said. “Two legitimacies are in a struggle and we are caught between them. Each side is trying to prevail against the other and al-Qaeda is exploiting all of this.”

Officials have blamed the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamist militant group that controls large swathes of territory in southern Yemen, for the recent attacks.

Yesterday the defence ministry’s September 26 news portal said “seven soldiers were martyred in a treacherous terrorist attack on their outpost” near the city of Shibam, in the southern Hadramout province.

Mr Ahmed said roads were cut and pointed out that Yemen’s sole military transport aircraft had been sabotaged on an airbase recently, making it difficult to send arms to soldiers fighting al-Qaeda.

His ministry had devised a plan to overcome the army divisions, he said, which he hoped to implement within two weeks.

He gave no details of the plan but said he would tender his resignation if it was not implemented.

The United States and oil giant Saudi Arabia engineered the transfer of power from Mr Saleh to Mr Hadi, whose main task is to restore stability so the militants have fewer opportunities to exploit the central government’s weakness. – (Reuters)