Soldier killed as new suicide bombing hits Yemen

AFP, Saturday 3 Mar 2012

Two suicide bombers killed a Yemeni soldier after they blew up a vehicle at an elite Republican Guard Camp, raising questions on the new President's vow to fight terrorism and restore security across the nation

Army soldiers form a line to block marching anti-government protesters during a demonstration in Sanaa March 1, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Two suicide bombers killed a Yemeni soldier as they blew up a vehicle at an elite Republican Guard camp Saturday, a week after a similar attack claimed by Al-Qaeda that left 26 dead, military sources said.

"The two suicide bombers who carried out the attack were killed as well as a Republican Guard," a military official told AFP.

"Five other soldiers were also wounded" in the blast at the base in Bayda, 170 kilometres (105 miles) southwest of Sanaa and bordering Abyan province, an Al-Qaeda stronghold, the source added.

Witnesses said the bomb attack devastated the three-storey building. The blast was followed by a gunbattle between gunmen and troops, military officials said.

The targeted Republican Guard troops are led by Ahmed Saleh, son of veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, who formally stepped down as president on Monday.

Also on Saturday, two policemen with the central security services, commanded by Saleh's nephew Yehya, were wounded when roadside bombs planted in their camp exploded in the city of Mukala, capital of the southeastern province of Hadramawt, a security official told AFP.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a presidential palace in Hadramawt that killed 26 Republican Guards on February 25.

That attack came as President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi took the oath of office as Saleh's successor.

AQAP said the bombing of the palace in Mukala was "a clear message to the US ambassador," Gerald M. Feierstein, after alleged remarks he made "about restructuring the Yemeni army."

"This is a message to say that the US project in Yemen will not succeed and that our operations will target this project and its tools wherever they may be," AQAP said.

In an address to the nation straight after being sworn in, Hadi vowed to press the fight against Al-Qaeda and to restore security across his impoverished nation.

The Islamists took advantage of a decline in government control during 10 months of deadly anti-Saleh protests that led to his signing of a power transfer deal in November to seize large swathes of Yemen's south and east.

Saleh had declared himself a US ally in its "war on terror" but some of his opponents accused him of exaggerating the Al-Qaeda threat in a bid to win Western support to cling on to power.

Critics charge he may even have deliberately surrendered cities such as the Abyan provincial capital Zinjibar, which has been under the control of Al-Qaeda linked militants since last May.

At least 16 soldiers were wounded in clashes on Saturday with Al-Qaeda militants in Zinjibar, a local military official said, a toll confirmed by medics in nearby Aden.

In mid-January, the Islamist militants made a significant advance towards Sanaa when more than 1,000 Al-Qaeda fighters swept into the town of Rada, in Bayda province, and held it for nine days.

Yemen is the ancestral homeland of slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Based on the Gulf deal that saw Saleh quit after 33 years in power, Hadi will have to restructure the Yemeni army during a two-year interim period.

Saleh's relatives control the military and security apparatus.

In addition to his son and nephew, Tariq, another nephew, controls the presidential guard while a half brother, General Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, commands air force units.

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