The military commander spearheading the battle against Al Qaeda-linked militants in southern Yemen has been killed in a suicide attack, just days after the Yemeni government announced it had driven the rebels from their last remaining strongholds in the region.
According to the BBC, General Salem Ali Qatan was travelling through the port city of Aden in a three-car convoy when a suicide bomber threw himself onto the commander’s SUV and triggered his explosives, killing Qatan and four security staff. A local doctor told Reuters that 12 people, including nine soldiers, have been injured in the blast.
Yemen’s defence ministry identified the attacker as a Somali national. According to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, Yemeni militants claimed they had carried out the assassination in retaliation for the military’s intensified offensive in the country’s restive southern region:
“One of our jihadists succeeded in assassinating General Salem Ali Qatan who led a month-long offensive against our families and strongholds in Abyan,” a spokesman told the news agency, adding: “We were forced to flee our cities. We have not lost the war. Our war against crusaders will continue until we take full revenge.”
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Appointed in March by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Qatan replaced the divisive Major General Mahdi al-Magwala and launched an offensive against militants in the south of the country, The New York Times reported.
His crackdown forced the militants out of a string of town and villages in the provinces of Abyan and Shabwa where they had held sway since last year, according to the Agence France Presse.
Over the past week, the rebels pulled out of their main bases in Abyan, including the capital Zinjibar and the town of Jaar, while on Sunday night they withdrew from Azzan in Shabwa, ceding control of the town they had declared to be an Islamic emirate and used as a retreat point for displaced militants.
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