Al Qaeda gunmen suspected in attack on home of Yemeni counter-terrorism colonel

Three members of commander's family and some guards were wounded in assault

The ruins of home of Col Jamal Al Awlaki in Al Mahfrd district after an attack by suspected Al Qaeda militants on February 9, 2020. Courtesy of Cpt Salah Al Yousfi
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Two groups of Al Qaeda militants are believed to be behind an attack on the home of a senior pro-Yemeni government military commander in Abyan province on Sunday.

Three members of Col Jamal Al Awlaki's family and some guards were wounded in the morning attack in Al Hamra village, in Al Mahfed district.

"Two Toyota cars carrying masked gunmen attacked the house of the commander of the rapid action force with RPGs," Capt Salah Al Yousfi, spokesman for the Security Belt Forces in Abyan, told The National.

A hole in a wall of Col Jamal Al Awlaki's home in Al Mahfed district, Abyan province. Courtesy of Cpt Salah Al Yousfi

The Rapid Action Force is a division within the Security Belt Forces.

A few minutes after the wounded were taken to a hospital in Lawder district, the men returned and blew up the house, Capt Al Yousfi said.

Col Al Awlaki was not at home when the attack occurred.

The men then went towards Wadi Al Khayalah and Wadi Omaran in Moudiyah district in the eastern part of the province, Capt Al Yousfi said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the assault but it follows similar hit-and-run attacks in recent months by men believed to be Al Qaeda militants.

The attacks have largely targeted positions and officials from the Security Belt Forces and leaders of the Southern Transitional Council in the region.

On January 2, two Security Belt fighters were killed, two wounded and two kidnapped by militants believed to be from Al Qaeda when they attacked a checkpoint held by the force in Al Mahfed.

Sources in the Yemeni military said Al Qaeda fighters returned to Abyan last summer, taking advantage of a halt in military operations by UAE-trained forces amid a political dispute between the STC and the Yemeni government last summer.

"We have information regarding the return of hundreds of elements linked with Al Qaeda and ISIS," Gen Naser Salem, the operations room officer in Abyan, told The National.

“A group of them got back to their former stronghold in Wadi Omaran in Moudiyah district.

“They have been gathering in the mountainous chain in the valley. Dozens of them returned from the bordering province of Al Bayda.”