Connect to share and comment

Yemen army commander killed in suicide attack

Gen Salem Ali Qatan, the army commander leading the battle against Al Qaeda-linked militants in southern Yemen, has been killed in a suicide attack.

Yemen al qaeda 2012 4 4Enlarge
Al Qaeda loyalists in the town of Jaar, in Yemen's southern Abyan province, on Jan. 25, 2012. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

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.”

More from GlobalPost: President Ali Abdullah Saleh hands over power amid protests calling for his prosecution

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.

More from GlobalPost: Yemen's President is out but real change remains elusive

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120618/yemen-army-commander-killed-suicide-attack