Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—At least 14 Yemeni soldiers were kidnapped and killed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on Friday, as they made their way to an army base in the country’s Hadhramaut governorate.
Local sources in Hadhramaut, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat the armed men stopped a bus the soldiers were travelling on, and then executed them.
AQAP released a statement on Saturday which said that the soldiers were executed for “their participation in the military campaign against Al-Qaeda in the governorate in the last few days.”
The statement said the soldiers’ bus had been stopped on a road into the town of Houta near the city of Seiyun, Hadhramaut’s biggest city, and that “the soldiers were interrogated and taken to the town center and then executed.”
Last week, Yemeni army spokesmen told Asharq Al-Awsat that AQAP was in complete control of the governorate of Hadhramaut, and that the army was sending reinforcements to regain control of the southern governorate.
Yemeni military sources told Asharq Al-Awsat the governorate had now become a priority for the supreme commander of the armed forces, President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
Fighting between the Yemeni military and AQAP has taken place around the town of Al-Qatn in the province, with the Yemeni army reportedly foiling the organization’s attempt to take control of the area and declare it an “Islamic Emirate.” AQAP fighters included Saudi and Yemeni nationals wanted in both countries on terrorism charges.
Meanwhile, Yemeni officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Yemeni defense minister, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, visited Seiyun on Saturday in a show of support for his forces.
The city was the scene of intense fighting between AQAP and the Yemeni army last week, and the Yemeni Defense Ministry claimed its forces had killed 25 suspected terrorists in two days of clashes, including seven men killed attempting to attack an army base on Thursday.
Meanwhile, as fighting between AQAP and the Yemeni military in Hadhramaut continued, three men said to be members of AQAP were killed by an American drone attack in the province of Ma’rib on Saturday morning, in the first reported US drone strike in Yemen in two months. Local sources said the American drone attacked a house in the Saket area in the Wadi Ubaidah district, killing everyone inside.
Clashes were also reported between members of Al-Qaeda and security forces in the Shabwah governorate, which neighbors Hadhramaut, on Saturday. No figures were available for the number of casualties at the time of writing.
Hamdan Al-Rahbi contributed additional reporting from Sana’a.