Suspected al-Qarda militants on Tuesday attacked a security post in southern Yemen, sparking clashes that killed at least 21 troops and six militants, military officials said.
The early morning attack in Ahwar, in the province of Abyan, targeted a post manned by troops from the Security Belt security force.
The officials said at least 21 troops were killed in the attack and the clashes that ensued for hours. Four more troops were also wounded, they said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.
Among the dead troops was Yasser Nasser Shaea, a senior commander in the force fighting terror groups in Yemen, the Security Belt said in a statement.
It said six militants were killed and others were detained. It posted images showing bodies it said were the dead militants.
No group claimed responsibility for the ambush, but it bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
AQAP has long been considered the global network’s most dangerous branch, and has attempted to carry out attacks on the US mainland.
AQAP, along with an affiliate of the ISIS group, are active in several regions of Yemen and have taken advantage of the yearslong war to make inroads.
Mohammed al-Ghaithi, head of the Consultation and Reconciliation Commission that is affiliated with the Presidential Leadership Council, said peace will not prevail in Yemen without the defeat of terrorism.
In a tweet, he stressed the importance of intensifying regional and international efforts to combat terrorism.
The legitimate government alleges that the Iran-backed Houthi militias, which control northern parts of the country, cooperate with terrorist groups in order to destabilize the liberated region.
In previous statements, Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani had accused the Houthis of releasing several terrorists from jail after their takeover of the capital, Sanaa.
Among the released were prominent al-Qaeda members.
In November 2018, the militias freed 20 terrorists, including 14 al-Qaeda and four ISIS members, said the minister.
Yemeni journalist Mahmoud al-Taher tied Tuesday’s attack to the deployment of Security Belt members in several regions in Abyan.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the attack took place as al-Qaeda openly threatened the PLC and Saudi Arabia.
He revealed that the terrorists and Houthis had struck deals and understandings to lead to hamper the mission of the PLC and lead to its failure.
Tuesday’s developments are the beginning of an attempt to rattle the PLC, warned Taher.
Moreover, he added that the Houthis and al-Qaeda often turn to each other whenever Yemeni parties appear to be on the way to uniting and agreement.
This has become common knowledge in Yemen, said Taher.