SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni warplanes killed at least five al-Qaeda-linked militants in overnight airstrikes against hideouts in the southern Abyan province, a security official said Tuesday.
The official said the attacks late on Monday concentrated on the al-Mahfad area, where militants took refuge after they were driven out from strongholds in the city of Zinjibar and the nearby town of Jaar, both of which the army recaptured from militants two months ago.
Yemeni media said earlier that the militants were consolidating their positions in al-Mahfad, quoting witnesses who said they saw military hardware headed to the area in in trucks. Local residents, cited in the reports, are appealing to the government to concentrate airstrikes against militants in the area.
In Sanaa, also Monday night, gunmen fired at the car of Yahya al-Arasy, press secretary to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the official added. Al-Arasy escaped unharmed.
The attackers tried to stop him during his drive home in the city’s west, but he escaped by accelerating through a hail of bullets, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity according to regulations.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday that two unknown gunmen on a motorcycle assassinated a security official in Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramaout province, as he was heading home. The attackers escaped.
Al-Qaeda militants, after being defeated in Zinjibar, Jaar and Shoqra, have intensified their attacks mainly against security officials and ranking army officers.
Last Thursday, Col. Abdullah al-Maouzaei, charged with hunting down members of al-Qaeda, was killed when his vehicle blew up as he turned on the ignition outside his home in the southern port city of Aden.
Lt. Col. Mohammed al-Qudami, who was the intelligence chief for one of the sectors of Sanaa, was killed earlier this month in a similar way.
Also in Aden, a suicide bomber late last month killed Maj. Gen. Salem Ali al-Quton, an army commander who was leading the fight against al-Qaeda in the country’s south, while he was traveling in a three-car convoy.
Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, also known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is considered the most dangerous offshoot of the terror group. It seized several cities in southern Yemen since an uprising began last year. But in May, government troops attacked them in coordination with U.S. military experts based in a southern air base and managed recapturing many of its strongholds.
The deadliest reaction by al-Qaeda came in May 21 when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt at a parade ground in Sanaa that killed 96 Yemeni soldiers.