ADEN, Yemen (Xinhua) — Four pro-government Yemeni soldiers were killed and six others injured in a suicide car bombing that rocked the country’s southern province of Abyan on Monday, a security official told Xinhua.
According to the local security source, the suicide car bomb targeted pro-government soldiers who gathered in the eastern outskirts of coastal Shoqra town in Abyan province, leaving at least four soldiers killed and six others injured at the scene.
The suicide attack was followed by intense clashes between the pro-government soldiers and al-Qaida assailants in the same area, the security source said.
The car bomb attack came just one day after Yemeni government troops backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition recaptured three major cities from the Yemen-based al-Qaida offshoot in Abyan in an anti-terror military offensive.
Hundreds of Yemeni soldiers newly trained and armed by the Arab coalition in Aden launched on Sunday a wide-scale military operation and successfully kicked out al-Qaida militants from the three strategic cities, including Zinjibar city which is Abyan’s provincial capital.
The Saudi-led warplanes provided air power and air-covered the government forces on the ground and destroyed several al-Qaida arms caches and heavy weapons.
The local government building and key state facilities in Zinjibar city were retaken by the government forces that deployed heavy armored vehicles and tanks in the city’s streets, according local Yemeni sources.
Scores of al-Qaida mid-level commanders used private cars and moved their families outside the region after the UAE-backed Yemeni forces approached and entered the city of Zinjibar, al-Qaida’s key stronghold in southern Yemen, residents told Xinhua.
The city of Zinjibar is strategically important due to its proximity to the port city of Aden, which houses ministers of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government after the capital Sanaa was occupied by the Shiite Houthi group in September 2014.
Last December, gunmen of the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) took full control over two strategic towns in neighboring Abyan province, about 45 kilometers away from Aden, where Yemen’s internationally recognized government has based itself.
Yemen, an impoverished Arab country, has been gripped by one of the most active regional al-Qaida insurgencies in the Middle East.
The AQAP, also known locally as Ansar al-Sharia, emerged in January 2009. It had claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks on Yemen’s army and government institutions.
It took advantage of the current security vacuum and the ongoing civil war to expand its influence and seize more territories in Yemen’s southern part.
Security in Yemen has deteriorated since March 2015, when war broke out between the Shiite Houthi group, supported by former President Ali Abdullash Saleh, and the government backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition.
More than 6,400 people have been killed in ground battles and airstrikes since then, half of them civilians.