7 Al-Qaeda militants, 3 policemen killed in Yemen onslaught

AFP , Tuesday 13 Mar 2012

An air strike on Tuesday kills 5 Al-Qaeda militants following death of 3 policemen in an car-bomb attack in Yemen's Bayda province

Five Al-Qaeda militants were killed in an air strike on their car in Yemen's Bayda province on Tuesday after deadly unrest there, and with the air force blasting jihadist positions in nearby Abyan, security officials said.

"A fighter jet raided a car carrying five Al-Qaeda militants," said the official. "All five were killed."

A tribal chief confirmed the raid, which came hours after another security official said three policemen were killed in a suicide attack in Bayda early on Tuesday.

"Three policemen were killed and six others were wounded in a suicide attack on a checkpoint in Suwadeya," the official said, referring to a village in Bayda, in Yemen's south.

After the attack, carried out with a bomb-laden vehicle, clashes broke out between extremists and security forces in which the province's Al-Qaeda chief, Naser Al-Dhafri, and another militant were killed, the source said.

He accused Dhafri of being the "mastermind" behind Tuesday's attack.

The official, requesting anonymity, said the Qaeda militants killed in the raid were on their way to support those locked in clashes with the police, adding that extremists managed to capture two policemen during the fighting.

A military official said the Yemeni air force also carried out strikes on Tuesday targeting Al-Qaeda positions, including a suspected training camp, in neighbouring Abyan province, where an attack on an army camp last week killed 185 soldiers.

"Yemeni air forces launched six raids on Tuesday against Al-Qaeda posts in Jaar," an Al-Qaeda stronghold in Abyan, said the official, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Three raids targeted an Al-Qaeda weapons hideout and a training camp west of Jaar," and three targeted other Al-Qaeda positions southwest of the town, he added. No casualties were immediately reported.

Residents there, contacted by AFP, confirmed the raids but could not say if they were carried out by US drones or Yemeni air forces.

On Sunday, three extremists were killed when US drones fired missiles targeting their weapons hideouts in a hill overlooking Jaar, with another six killed in artillery fire by the Yemeni army on one of their positions southeast of Jaar.

Tuesday's violence follows a string of bloody attacks by the jihadist network against security forces that have rocked Yemen since former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled the country for 33 years, stepped down last month.

And it comes just hours after the interior ministry issued a statement warning of "a terrorist plot by Al-Qaeda to target vital installations and government facilities in several provinces."

"The Al-Qaeda network is planning to carry out terrorist operations using bomb-laden vehicles," it said.

The ministry is committed to "dealing with this threat... (and) will continue its war on terror."

In an address to the nation after being sworn in to succeed Saleh on 25 February, President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi vowed to fight against Al-Qaeda and restore security across the impoverished nation, ancestral homeland of slain jihadist leader Osama bin Laden.

Shortly after his speech, a suicide attack against a presidential palace in the mostly lawless southeastern province of Hadramawt killed 26 Republican Guard troops. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility.

The violence highlights the security challenges facing Hadi as he tries to restore order and unify the country's armed forces, as stipulated by a Gulf-brokered transition accord that ended Saleh's rule.

Saleh, a US ally in its "war on terror", handed power to Hadi based on the deal, which was hailed by world powers as Yemen's only exit from a year-long uprising that left the country's economy in tatters and aggravated the dire security situation.

Al-Qaeda and their local affiliates have launched near daily attacks since February on security forces and police in Bayda, as well as the provinces of Abyan, Shabwa and Hadramawt in the south and east of the country.

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