Soldier and civilian killed in suspected Al Qaeda ambush in southern Yemen

Incident follows hit and run attacks thought to be linked to terrorist group

An Al Qaeda logo on a street sign in the town of Jaar in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, in 2012. AP
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A security soldier and a civilian were killed in an ambush in southern Yemen on Tuesday night suspected to have been carried out by Al Qaeda.

The attack was in Wadi Al Khayalah in Al Mahfed district, in the east of Abyan province, said Capt Salah Al Yousfi, spokesman for the Security Belt Forces.

A civilian, Rabiea Kadash, 36, and soldier Aydan Ali Awad, 33, were killed.

“The ambush was set up in Wadi Al Khayalah junction,” Capt Al Yousfi said. “It’s recognised as one of the main strongholds of Al Qaeda in the province of Abyan.”

Al Qaeda has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Sunday there was an attack on the home of a commander of the Rapid Action Force, a division of the Security Belt Forces, in Abyan province.

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

Military and security sources said they were highly concerned as Al Qaeda fighters returned to Abyan last summer.

The extremists were exploiting a halt in military operations by UAE-trained forces last summer during a dispute between the Yemen government and the secessionist Southern Transitional Council.

"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.”

Elisabeth Kendall, a senior research fellow in Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Oxford, said the attack last Sunday bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Pensinsula.

“Over the past two years, the Security Belt forces in Abyan have been Aqap’s second most targeted entity, the first being ISIS in Al Bayda province,” Ms Kendall said.

“Aqap’s operational activity in Abyan peaked in August 2019. It’s therefore tempting to see this as part of a broader campaign to attack the south.”