Yemen bleeds again as militants kill 19 soldiers

Soldiers are seen at the scene of the blast after a deadly missile attack on a military parade during a graduation ceremony for newly recruited troopers in Aden, Yemen, on Thursday. — Reuters

ADEN — Al-Qaeda gunmen killed 19 soldiers in an attack on an army base in southern Yemen Friday, security officials said, a day after deadly assaults by rebels and a extremist bomber.

The gunmen stormed Al-Mahfad base in Abyan province and remained inside for several hours before military reinforcements came, three security officials said, adding that the soldiers were killed in clashes with the jihadists.

"The Al-Qaeda gunmen took advantage of what happened (Thursday) in Aden and launched an assault on Al-Mahfad base and clashed with soldiers," a government security official said.

"Military reinforcements were sent... and the gunmen were killed while others were driven out with air support from the (Saudi-led) coalition, in an operation that lasted hours," the official said.

"At least 19 soldiers were killed and others wounded."

The other two officials confirmed both the details and the death toll.

Security analyst Aleksandar Mitreski said the attacks "seem opportunistic".

"Al-Qaeda has neither the capability nor the strategic appetite to open a new front in south Yemen," Matreski who is also a researcher at the University of Sydney said.

"We may see other sporadic attacks in the future motivated by Al-Qaeda's desire to remain a relevant actor in the Yemeni conflict."

The Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Daesh (the so-called IS) and other militants have flourished in the chaos of the civil war between the government and Iran-backed Houthi militia.

On Thursday, separate attacks by the Houthis and militants hit security forces in Yemen's second city Aden, killing at least 49 people, many of them newly trained police cadets, officials said.

The first attack was a suicide car bombing carried out by extremists on a police station that killed 13 police officers and wounded several others, a security source said.

The second attack was carried out by the Houthis, who said they launched a drone and a ballistic missile at a training camp west of Aden, that killed 39 people.

The aerial attack hit as senior commanders were overseeing a passing out parade for newly graduated cadets at Al-Jala Camp, 20 km from the center of Aden.

The missile struck about five meters (yards) from the viewing platform and a senior commander was among the dead, a photographer reported.

Aden is controlled by Yemen's internationally recognized government and its supporters in the Saudi-led military coalition, which has been fighting the Iran-aligned rebels since 2015.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for the drone and missile attack on Al-Jala training camp.

Daesh said it was responsible for the suicide bombing on the police station, in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

The Yemeni government said on Thursday the "source and purpose (of the attacks) were the same".

"The two attacks prove the Houthi militia rebels and other terrorist groups are sharing roles and complementing each other in a war against the Yemeni people," a statement said. — AFP