April 2, 2012
Militants of the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch on Sunday shot dead 15 army soldiers held captives during Saturday's fighting in the southern province of Lahj, a military official told Xinhua.
A total of 15 army soldiers from the 119th Brigade who were held captives by the al-Qaida militants during Saturday's battles were killed in the desert between Lahj and Abyan provinces by the terrorist group members, the local military official said on condition of anonymity.
"A number of soldiers are still missing from Saturday's attack that targeted an army base in al-Mallah town in the southern province of Lahj, close to the insurgents-controlled city of Jaar in Abyan. Searching for the missing troops is underway," the official said.
Witnesses confirmed to Xinhua that many dead bodies of the army soldiers were found scattered in different places in the suburbs of Lahj province following the fierce fighting.
The al-Qaida spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
On Saturday, up to 20 al-Qaida militants stormed an army barrack of the 201st Mechanized Army Brigade in Lahj province, killing at least 20 soldiers, according to an army officer.
The army troops fought back and killed at least eight militants and injured dozens of others from both sides, the officer added.
A day after the fighting, a group of unidentified gunmen believed to be from the al-Qaida militants raided a military checkpoint of the security forces in the Shibam district in southeastern Hadramout province, killing at least seven soldiers at the scene, a security official said.
The Yemeni army and security forces have recently been attacked by the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the restive southern regions. Hundreds of government troops were either killed or injured during deadly suicide bombings and fierce battles with al-Qaida insurgents in the province of Abyan during the past two months.
Taking advantage of the one-year-long political conflicts, 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.