AQAP gunmen suspected in attack on home of Yemeni counter-terror colonel

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - 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 that left several members of the soldier’s family wounded.

The attack targeted the home of Col Jamal Lakmah Al Awlaki of the Rapid Action Force, a division of the Security Belt forces, in the village of Al Hamra in Al Mahfed district of eastern Abyan province on Sunday morning.

“Two Toyota cars carrying masked gunmen attacked the house of the commander of the rapid action force with RPGs,” Cpt Salah Al Yousfi, spokesman of the Security Belt forces in Abyan, told The National. “The guards and three members of the commander’s family were injured and taken to the hospital in Lawder district to be treated.”

A hole in a wall of Col Jamal Al Awlaki's home in Al Mahfad district of Yemen's Abyan province after an attack by suspected Al Qaeda militants. Courtesy of Cpt Salah Al Yousfi

A few minutes after the wounded were transferred to hospital, the men returned to blow up the residence, Cpt Al Yousfi said.

“Col Al Awlaki survived the attack because he wasn’t in the house, which was fully devastated.”

The men then headed towards Wadi Al Khayalah and Wadi Omaran in Moudiyah district of east Abyan, he said.

While no groups have claimed responsibility for the assault, it follows a wave of hit-and-run attacks in recent months by men believed to be part of Al Qaeda.

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

On January 2, two Security Belt fighters were killed, two injured 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 told The National that the province of Abyan has seen a return of numerous Al Qaeda fighters who took advantage of a halt in military operations by UAE-trained and funded 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, a group of them got back to their former stronghold in Wadi Omaran in Moudiyah district,” Gen Naser Salem, the operations room officer in Abyan, told The National. “They have been gathering in the mountainous chain in the valley. Dozens of them returned from the bordering province of Al Bayda.”

Updated: February 9, 2020 05:52 PM

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