Friday, April 22, 2011

Qaeda, tribes kill 20 Yemen soldiers

Sana'a, Apr 22, 2011 (AFP) — Tribesmen and Al-Qaeda militants killed 22 people, all but two of them soldiers, and captured dozens of others in separate attacks over a 24-hour period, security and tribal sources said on Friday.

"Al-Qaeda militants ambushed a military patrol near Safer (oil fields), in (the eastern province of) Marib, killing 11 soldiers," a security official in Sanaa said. The assailants used machine-guns in Friday's attack.

Also in Marib, two soldiers were killed, two wounded and 30 taken prisoner in a clash with tribesmen, said another security official and a tribal source. Six tribesmen were also wounded.

The tribesmen, armed with anti-aircraft guns, attacked a military convoy trying to open the main Sanaa-Marib road, which the tribes have blocked in protest at local grievances.

Security officials later said unknown gunmen on Friday shot dead a soldier in the restive southern province of Abyan, an Al-Qaeda bastion, raising the army's death toll to 20.

On Thursday, a fierce clash between armed tribesmen and troops of Yemen's elite Republican Guard in the southern province of Lahij left at least six soldiers and two tribesmen dead, security officials said.

The clashes broke out over the army's refusal to redeploy a Republican Guard unit from the mountain village of Labus, according to tribal sources.

Yemen, a deeply tribal country on the Arabian Peninsula, has been the scene of deadly protests since late January calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The protests have led to defections and clashes within the army. But the Republican Guard, headed by Saleh's son, Ahmed, has remained loyal to the embattled president.

Besides anti-regime protests, Yemen has been battling a secessionist movement in the south, a Shiite rebellion in the north and an Al-Qaeda resurgence on its soil.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Saleh's fall or replacement by a weaker leader would pose "a real problem" for Washington's fight against Al-Qaeda.

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