SANAA: Gunmen ambushed a military truck during a night-time attack in a southern province, officials said, killing all four soldiers in the vehicle in a raid claimed by Yemen’s al-Qaida branch.
Yemeni security officials said the attackers surprised the soldiers late Thursday with heavy gunfire while patrolling a street in Houta, a town in the southern Lahj province. They could not identify the attackers.
The SITE intelligence group, which monitors jihadi online postings, quoted al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula as claiming responsibility in a statement posted on militant Twitter accounts. The militants said they set fire to the truck after they seized the soldiers’ machineguns.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
The province has seen increased activity by al-Qaida militants and Shiite Houthi rebels, both of which oppose the government.
The Houthis swept into Sanaa in September and kept President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi under house arrest until he fled last week. He moved to southern city of Aden, where he is setting up a presidential base and rallying supporters.
The U.S. considers al-Qaida in Yemen to be one of the most dangerous local branches of the global terror organization because it has been linked to several failed attacks in the U.S. Washington has frequently launched drone strikes against the group — which captured large parts of Yemen in the security vacuum following the country’s 2011 uprising.
In Geneva, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the critical conditions in Yemen were being closely monitored with great concern as the political dialogue was faltering.
Ravina Shamdasani said that in the past few months, the U.N. organization has documented a number of unlawful arrests, arbitrary detentions and targeting of journalists. Last week, a protester was killed by special forces under the control of the Houthis, who reportedly used live ammunition to disperse demonstrations.
“It is crucial that all sides exercise restraint and work to resolve the political impasse in a peaceful manner and to avoid the situation from spiraling out of control,” Shamdasani said.