Suspected al-Qaida militants ambush Yemeni governor’s convoy, killing 1 soldier

By Ahmed Al-haj, AP
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Al-Qaida suspects ambush Yemeni governor’s convoy

SAN’A, Yemen — Suspected al-Qaida militants in Yemen ambushed a convoy of cars Wednesday that were carrying the governor of a southern province where the terror group’s local offshoot has established a safe haven, security officials said.

The governor of Shabwa province, Ali al-Ahmadi, was not injured, but one soldier guarding the convoy was killed and six others were wounded in an exchange of fire with the masked gunmen.

The convoy, making its way toward the provincial capital, was also carrying senior Defense Ministry officials and army Chief of Staff Gen. Salem Qutn, the security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has taken root in Yemen’s remote and mountainous Shabwa province, far from the reach of the country’s weak central government. Its fighters have been hammering Yemeni security forces in attacks on checkpoints and other police and army targets.

Last week, government forces hit back. With tanks and artillery fire, they battled an al-Qaida cell of about 120 fighters holed up in the town of Hawta inside Shabwa province. Thousands of the town’s residents were forced to flee because of government shelling that some witnesses said was indiscriminate.

The Yemen-based offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s terror network formed a year and a half ago with the merger of Yemeni and Saudi militant groups.

The group rose toward the top of the security agenda of the United States and other world powers after being linked to the failed plot in December to down a U.S. airliner with explosives sewn into the underwear of a would-be suicide bomber.

The U.S. is helping train Yemeni forces, and the Pentagon has pledged $150 million in military assistance to Yemen this year for helicopters, planes and other equipment.

Yemen, the poorest nation in the Arab world, suffers major internal security problems other than al-Qaida, including an on-and-off Shiite rebellion in the north and a separate secessionist struggle in the south.

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