Middle East

5 soldiers killed in suspected Qaeda attack in S. Yemen

Attackers target security checkpoint in Abyan province linked to UAE-backed Al-Hizam Brigade

5 soldiers killed in suspected Qaeda attack in S. Yemen file photo

By Shukri Hussein

ADEN, Yemen

At least five soldiers were killed in a suspected attack by Al-Qaeda on a security checkpoint in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, according to local sources.

“Five soldiers were killed -- and two others injured -- in Abyan’s Ahwar Directorate late Tuesday,” Ahmed al-Medahdah, a local health official, told Anadolu Agency without providing further details.

A security source in Abyan told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that the attackers had targeted a checkpoint affiliated with the Al-Hizam Brigade (or “Security Belt”) -- a military force backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) -- with machine-guns and hand grenades.

According to the same source, who spoke anonymously due to restrictions on speaking to media, the attackers seized the slain soldiers’ weapons before fleeing the scene.

No party has yet claimed responsibility for the reported attack, but the security source pointed the finger at the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, which maintains a significant presence in southern Yemen.

Established by the UAE in mid-2015, the Al-Hizam Brigade is currently deployed in the coastal city of Aden and in adjacent areas.

Currently led by Hani Bin Brek, the Brigade is known to be close to the Southern Interim Council, which calls for the secession of southern Yemen from the rest of the country.

Yemen has remained wracked by violence since 2014, when Shia Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including capital Sanaa.

The conflict escalated the following year when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies, including the UAE, launched a massive air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains in Yemen and supporting the country’s pro-Saudi government.

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