At least four soldiers have been killed in a suicide bombing in southern Yemen, in an attack claimed by an Al Qaeda-linked group.
Another four were wounded when the bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives near a checkpoint outside the city of Bayda on Tuesday, Reuters reports.
After the explosion, clashes broke out near the site of the blast, during which an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader identified as Nasser al-Zafari was reported killed, according to the Agence France Presse.
However, the Associated Press quotes officials as saying that al-Zafari was killed after a government air strike hit a car carrying militants through the blast area shortly after the attack, killing at least four.
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Tuesday’s attack is the latest in a series of operations for which the militant Ansar al-Sharia group has claimed responsibility. In a text message, the group said it had orchestrated the bombing in revenge for recent US air strikes on Bayda and another city, Abyan, according to the BBC.
More than 60 militants are believed to have been killed by US and Yemeni air strikes in the past week. 17 were killed on Friday when Yemeni warplanes struck targets outside Bayda.
Ansar al-Sharia has exploited a security vacuum in Yemen’s restive southern and eastern regions, and has stepped up its attacks since new President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office last month and pledged to fight Al Qaeda and Islamist militants.
While the nature of the relationship between Ansar al-Sharia and Al Qaeda is unclear, Yemen’s government says they are one and the same.
Ansar al-Sharia also claimed to have captured a soldier during Tuesday’s operation. Last week the group issued a statement threatening to kill the more than 70 Yemeni troops it holds hostage unless the government releases AQAP members currently in jail.
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