ADEN, (AFP) – A soldier who hired a motor-bike taxi in southern Yemen was shot dead by the driver in what is believed to be another ambush by Al-Qaeda militants in the restive region, an official said Saturday.
The killing took place in Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province, on Friday, the security official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The soldier, he added, had hired the taxi to take him to his home in a suburb, where the driver shot him dead.
In the past six months, 28 suicide attacks by bike-borne militants have killed 15 officials in Abyan alone, the southern province that has become an Al-Qaeda bastion. Security officials say the Islamists have carried out similar attacks in other provinces.
With motorbike hit-and-run shootings also on the rise, the authorities in October ordered some 2,000 two-wheelers off the streets of Abyan and enforced restrictions on their use in other areas.
Soldiers have been banned from using motor-bike taxis but many continue to use them when off duty as they are the cheapest form of transport.
The United States, meanwhile, on Friday called on Yemen to step up its fight against Al-Qaeda, one year after a botched attempt to blow up a US passenger plane by a Nigerian with Yemeni links.
Counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan called Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh “to emphasize the importance of taking forceful action against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in order to thwart its plans to carry out terrorist attacks in Yemen as well as in other countries, including in the US Homeland,” the White House said in a statement.
AQAP has been accused of being behind the attempted Christmas Day attack last year by a young Nigerian who had reportedly studied in Yemen.
It has taken credit for a foiled air cargo bomb plot in October, in which printer toner cartridges that had been rigged as bombs were shipped out of Sanaa and, according to investigators, set to explode over the United States.
One of the leaders of the group – US-Yemeni citizen Anwar al-Awlaqi, believed at large in Yemen’s vast and lawless tribal areas – is now viewed by Washington as a threat on par with Al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden.