31 killed in multiple attacks by al-Qaida gunmen in Yemen

31 killed in multiple attacks by al-Qaida gunmen in Yemen

ADEN, Yemen, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Scores of suspected al-Qaida gunmen launched on Saturday a wave of six attacks against several military and government installations, leaving 31 people killed and several others injured, in Yemen's southeastern province of Hadramout, government and medical officials told Xinhua.

Heavily armed attackers of the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch carried out multiple pre-dawn attacks against several military and government installations, including shootings, bombings and arson, in Seiyun town of Hadramout province, triggering fierce clashes with security forces, a high-ranking government official said on condition of anonymity.

The violent attacks occurred overnight in the city of Seiyun, 322 km away from Mukalla, the provincial capital city of Hadramout province.

The Yemeni official said the targets in the simultaneous attacks included three banks, police, military, intelligence and government buildings, which were looted and then blown up by improvised explosive devices and some set on fire.

Another security official in Hadramout told Xinhua over phone that al-Qaida militants fired rocket-propelled grenades and other explosive projectiles at the first Military Region headquarters in Seiyun.

More than eight army checkpoints and security locations were stormed by the well-trained al-Qaida assailants, and dozens of soldiers were either killed or injured on the spot, the Yemeni security source said on condition of anonymity, adding that there are still many soldiers missing.

The Special Security Forces, the armored army brigades and the counter-terrorism units in Hadramout have entered into "the state of alarm," according to the security official.

Local residents living near the National Security Building ( Intelligence) and the Central Bank said the two buildings and others nearby had sustained significant damage. Windows were blasted out and rubble was scattered on the ground.

"It was a very frightening night. Huge explosions rocked the ground and we saw the black smoke rising," Khaled Ba-Haroon, a resident, said by phone. "Some outside walls and balconies of nearby buildings are damaged."

Doctors at the Seiyun Medical Center kept updating the casualties to Xinhua, saying that they have now received 31 bodies and 20 wounded. Senior army officers were among the dead.

A number of Yemeni officials and political observers said the attacks could be seen as retaliation for Yemen's recent military operations against suspected al-Qaida strongholds throughout the country.

The Yemeni armed forces backed by mechanized battalions, air force and special forces have killed, wounded and captured dozens of local and foreign suspected al-Qaida militants during the operations that started late in April.

The bodies of suspected foreign fighters from Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Somalia, Russia's Chechnya and other nations have been discovered among the dead, Yemeni authorities said earlier this month.

The al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), also known locally as Ansar al-Sharia, has vowed to hit back in Yemen's main cities, including the capital Sanaa.

The AQAP, which emerged in January 2009, is considered the most strategic threat to the Yemeni government and neighboring oil-rich Saudi Arabia.