January 21, 2012
Four people including an Al-Qaeda militant were killed on Saturday in clashes in the central Yemeni town of Rada, which a large force of extremists seized less than a week ago, a tribal dignitary said.
Witnesses said a firefight erupted when dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters used machineguns and shells to attack a house in the town center, sparking return fire from residents.
"Four people, including an Al-Qaeda man, were killed," the tribal official told AFP.
The clash came following the failure on Friday of a third round of tribal mediation since the town was seized overnight on January 22.
The same official said mediators had been unable to negotiate a retreat from the town of the insurgents because their leader, Tareq al-Dahab, refused to change his demands, the main one being that Rada become an "Islamic emirate."
On Friday, an Al-Qaeda fighter was also killed by Rada residents who had formed vigilante committees to defend their areas.
The militants met little resistance from security forces when they moved into Rada last Sunday night.
Several sources in the town said more than 1,000 Al-Qaeda gunmen invaded Rada, which is within striking distance of a strategic highway connecting Sanaa with the South and southwest.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has sought to capitalize on a year of deadly dissent against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and has consolidated its presence in several areas of the south and east.
Al-Qaeda-linked militants already control a string of towns in Abyan, Shabwa and Marib provinces, but Rada is the closest they have come to the capital.
The strong jihadist presence in Yemen made Saleh a key ally in Washington's "war on terror" before the Arab spring uprisings sparked a wave of protests against his regime that he countered with deadly violence.