Yemeni militant ambush kills four

Four people, including two army officers, were killed yesterday in an ambush on a military vehicle in the southern province of Dhal'e.

SANA'A // Four people, including two army officers, were killed yesterday in an ambush on a military vehicle in the southern province of Dhal'e. It came as authorities announced the arrest of the suspected mastermind of the attack on intelligence headquarters in the port city of Aden on Saturday that left 11 people dead.

The two army officers killed yesterday, one of whom was a lieutenant colonel, were gunned down in a hail of bullets from "separatist elements" who ambushed the vehicle on the main street in Dhal'e at dawn, the defence ministry website reported. Another officer and a soldier survived the attack unscathed. Two of the attackers were killed and one injured in the clash, the website said, adding that all three militants were on the government's "most-wanted list".

Eyewitnesses said they had seen the military vehicle, which had arrived in Dhal'e from the southern town of Radfan, burning for hours while citizens snatched the food supplies that were on the vehicle. The ministry said the assailants were members of the Southern Movement, an umbrella group of movements seeking the independence of the South, which united with the North in 1990. Southern Movement leaders could not be reached for comment.

Dhal'e is one of the most volatile southern provinces, where violent clashes between police and armed separatists have increased in recent months. Eight people were wounded last Tuesday in clashes between southern activists and police in Dhal'e during the funerals of four civilians killed on June 6 in government shelling of the town, local sources said. Seventeen others were wounded in the shelling, which generated broader public angry protests.

In response, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, set up a committee to investigate into the shelling and work to restore peace to the restive region. The South has been swept since 2007 by violent protests in which dozens were killed and wounded, including security men. Southerners have complained of being marginalised, particularly since they lost the 1994 civil war. Meanwhile, the authorities said yesterday the suspected mastermind of the attack on the intelligence headquarters in Yemen's port city of Aden was arrested.

The attack left seven security personnel, three women and a seven-year-old boy dead. The defence ministry website said: "In a successful intelligence operation, the security forces in Aden arrested the terrorist ring leader that carried out the attack". The website did not provide details on how the man, identified as Ghawdal Mohammed Saleh Naji, was arrested. But, it said that Mr Naji "belongs to terrorist groups and is a recidivist" who carried out "a number of terrorist and criminal crimes, including the armed robbery of the Central Bank branch in Aden" last year in which US$445,000 (Dh1.6 million) was taken.

According to security officials and eyewitnesses, four men armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, stormed the central courtyard of the intelligence headquarters in the morning and fought their way into its detention facility, where suspected al Qa'eda detainees are held. The state's top security committee said in a statement on Saturday the attack carries "the fingerprints of al Qa'eda".