Twelve killed in suspected Al Qaeda attack in southern Yemen

Eight soldiers and four civilians die in attack on a security checkpoint in Abyan province

Security forces loyal to the separatist Southern Transitional Council stand guard as they are deployed in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen December 20, 2020. REUTERS/Fawaz Salman
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Eight soldiers from the Security Belt Forces and four civilians were killed in an attack by suspected Al Qaeda militants in southern Yemen on Thursday, a security source in Abyan told The National.

"Gunmen wearing masks attacked a checkpoint belonging to the pro-STC Security Belt Forces using grenades and AK-47s in addition to RPG launchers, killing eight soldiers serving at the checkpoint and four civilians from one family who were crossing the checkpoint in their car at the moment the attack took place," the security source said.

"Two other passengers were injured in the attack, which was launched when their car crossed the checkpoint heading towards Shabwa province," the source said.

"The gunmen attacked the checkpoint riding in three Toyota cars. They hit the checkpoint and ran," the security source said. The injured were transferred to a hospital in Ataq city.

The Security Belt in South Yemen is a pro-Southern Transitional Council force founded in 2017 and deployed throughout the provinces of Aden, Abyan, Lahj and Al Dhlaea. These forces played a major role in the fight against Al Qaeda and ISIS in the southern provinces of Yemen, alongside the Elite Forces in the provinces of Shabwa and Hadramawt.

The attack was synchronised with an assassination attempt on Thursday morning on a pro-Southern Transitional Council minister in the Yemen power-sharing government in Aden, the interim capital of Yemen.

"The pro-Southern Transitional Council minister of the Civil Service, Dr Abdulnaser Al Wali, survived an assassination attempt by two explosive devices planted by unidentified men in the ring road in Khourmaksar city in Aden," a security source in Aden told The National.

"One of the explosive devices went off when the minister passed while heading to his office. The other explosive device didn't blow up," the source said.

The Southern Transitional Council issued a statement condemning the terrorist attack. It ordered its forces to stay highly equipped to combat terrorist cells in the southern provinces.

Terrorist groups have gained ground in the provinces of Shabwa and Abyan in southern Yemen since pro-Southern Transitional Council forces and pro-government forces clashed in Aden in August 2019.