(Reuters) – Al Qaeda’s Yemen arm said on Friday it was behind coordinated attacks on security offices in the Arabian peninsula state in which four people were killed, and threatened more strikes on Yemeni targets.
Gunmen on motorcycles stormed police and intelligence offices in south Yemen and opened fire on July 14, part of a series of recent al Qaeda attacks in response to a government crackdown.
“Two squads of the Jamil al-Ambari Martyr Brigades carried out attacks on the dens of oppression and aggression — the political and general security buildings in Abyan province — in two blessed operations,” al Qaeda’s Yemen-based regional wing said in a statement posted on an Islamist website.
Yemen’s Western allies fear the regional impact of a failed state in Yemen, right next door to oil exporter Saudi Arabia. Yemen is bogged down in domestic conflicts in its north and south while also fighting al Qaeda which has struck Western and Arab targets in recent months.
The attacks, including a failed attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December and a suicide bombing that failed to kill the British ambassador, prompted Sanaa to respond with air strikes and military assaults.
Al Qaeda, which said the July attack was in response to the killing of a militant in Abyan, stepped up its rhetoric against the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
“We say to the treacherous Arab governments, the false American idol and the leadership of the crusader campaign in the Islamic world: know that your desperate attempts to retain the regime of Ali Saleh, to defend your interests in the region, will not be of use,” it said.
“It is a corrupt, oppressive and decrepit regime, ripe for a fall, and the fighters by the grace of God will continue their strikes until God’s promise of victory is achieved.”
Al Qaeda in Yemen previously focused on high-impact strikes against Western and Saudi targets, but appears to have turned its focus to government forces in response to enhanced Yemen-U.S. security coordination and a government crackdown.
The claim of responsibility came after suspected al Qaeda gunmen killed five soldiers on Thursday in an ambush in south Yemen. The al Qaeda statement made no mention of that attack.
Yemen’s poorly equipped security forces are easier to strike than many Western targets, and the group may hope to capitalize on anti-government sentiment in the south, home to a strong and growing separatist movement.
The militant group, which confirmed that one of its fighters was among the dead in the July attack, also said it was behind the prior assassinations of a number of security officers, but did not say when those killings took place.