ADEN: Al-Qaeda militants on Sunday tried to overrun an army post in Yemen’s restive Abyan province, sparking a fierce firefight in which nine soldiers were killed and several captured, medics and officials said.
The firefight in Kud district of Abyan also left six soldiers wounded, a medic said.
“The hospital has received the bodies of six soldiers,” said the medic from Bashib military hospital in the southern city of Aden, adding that the wounded soldiers had also been brought to the facility.
A military official, who confirmed that the casualties arose from clashes between the army and Al-Qaeda militants in Kud, south of Abyan’s provincial capital Zinjibar, confirmed the toll.
But “there are other casualties among the army who have not been taken out of the area,” the official added.
A local official in Kud told AFP that Al-Qaeda gunmen had taken away the bodies of three other soldiers they had killed.
Many soldiers were also taken captive by the extremists, the local official added.
The military official could not say whether the extremists had managed to take command of the army post but said troops in surrounding areas had rushed to join the battle.
Another army official said that the militants had seized heavy weapons, accusing some army leaders who had served under the rule of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh of “collaborating” with Al-Qaeda.
Sunday’s attack followed clashes during the night between the army and militants in Zinjibar in which four Al-Qaeda fighters were killed, according to army officials.
Zinjibar has fallen mostly under the control of Al-Qaeda linked militants since May last year.
Saleh had declared himself a US ally in its “war on terror” but some of his opponents accused him of exaggerating the Al-Qaeda threat in a bid to win Western support to cling on to power.
Critics charge he may even have deliberately surrendered cities such as Zinjibar.
On Friday, state news agency Saba said President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, sworn in on February 25, has named General Salem Ali Qatan to head the 31st Armored Brigade in south Yemen.
The post had been held for decades by General Mahdi Maqola, known for his close ties to Saleh and accused of corruption.
Based on the Gulf deal that saw Saleh quit after 33 years in power, Hadi is required to restructure the Yemeni army during a two-year interim period.
Yemen is the ancestral homeland of slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.