Christine Bro | 17 January 2012
Sana’a (dpa) – Militants affiliated with al-Qaeda killed two soldiers and captured 11 amid clashes in southern Yemen, the government-run newspaper 26 September reported online Tuesday.
The clashes first erupted late Saturday as the militants entered the city of Rada’a, 150 kilometers south-east of the capital Sana’a, reported the Defense Ministry-run daily.
More than 200 gunmen captured the famous al-Amiriya castle and mosque, according to security officials.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qurbi said Tuesday that the continuing unrest in the country could delay presidential elections, broadcaster Al Arabiya reported.
“I hope elections will take place in a timely manner, but unfortunately, there are some risks relating to security, and if they are not addressed … it will be difficult to run the elections on February 21,” said al-Qurbi.
Presidential elections are to be held early as part of a power transfer deal aimed at ending the unrest that started in February against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule.
Deputy Interior Minister Mohamad al-Qawsi said Tuesday that security forces had surrounded the entry points to Rada’a, but were not attacking the castle, which is considered an important archeological site.
“We are waiting for the military and security committee to take a suitable decision over this situation,” al-Qawsi was quoted as saying.
Al-Qaeda militants have taken advantage of the political turmoil and weak central government to expand their influence in the south.
The insurgents had also reportedly stormed the city’s prison and released prisoners being held on terrorism charges and for other crimes, the opposition website Mareb Press reported Tuesday.
The al-Qaeda militants are being led by Tariq al-Dahab – a relative of the group’s spiritual leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a US airstrike in September, Mareb Press reported.
It quoted tribal leaders as saying that they were currently under negotiations with al-Dahab to withdraw his militants from the Rada’a. They criticized the security forces for remaining on the sidelines as the militants asserted their control over the city.