SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Suspected al-Qaida militants targeted a checkpoint in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, killing at least six Yemeni troops, officials said Tuesday.
The officials said the attack, which took place late on Monday in the district of Lawdar, also wounded four troops, two of whom were in critical condition. The militants used automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in their assault, the officials said.
The checkpoint is run by a Yemeni force trained by the United Arab Emirates, a member of the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen’s civil war since 2015.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility from al-Qaida but the officials said the attack bore all the hallmarks of the Sunni militant group. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
The United States considers al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the world’s most dangerous offshoot of the terror network.
Over the weekend, militants killed a Yemeni university professor and secular thinker, Khalid al-Hameidi, in a drive-by shooting in the southern province of Dhale. Al-Hameidi was a known critic of Islamic extremists, at a time when dissent has become dangerous amid Yemen’s yearslong civil war.
The war in Yemen erupted in 2014, when the Shiite Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s north. The Saudi-led coalition, determined to restore the authority of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government, launched a sweeping military intervention the following year.
Islamic militants — both Yemen’s al-Qaida branch and the Islamic State group’s affiliate in the country — have exploited the chaos of the civil war to carry out bombings, shootings and assassinations in an effort to expand their footprints in Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished country.