Suicide blast near Yemen intelligence: ministry

Suspected al-Qaeda militants man a checkpoint in the area of Azzan in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa on April 3, 2012. (AFP)

Two suspected al-Qaeda suicide bombers died in Yemen when their payload exploded short of their intended target on Friday, the defense ministry said as it reported a government offensive killed over 100 militants in two days.

The ministry said on its news website 26sep.net that the bomb detonated before the bombers could reach the branch of the government intelligence agency in the main southern city of Aden.

Witnesses said one of the two men was a civilian, and a security official told AFP that the bomb went off outside the entrance gate to the building.

“Two suicide bombers belonging to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network were killed when their motorbike exploded... early Friday in Mansura” neighborhood, 26sep.net reported.

“The bomb-laden motorbike exploded with the two suicide bombers whose bodies were left in pieces before they managed to carry out their suicide attack that targeted a branch of the political security services in Mansura,” it quoted a security official as saying.

No other casualties were reported.

The ministry said the security services had identified one of the two men as Fawaz al-Subaihi, who lived in the neighborhood, while an investigation was ongoing to identify the second.

A witness in Mansura, who identified Subaihi from his remains, told AFP that the man owned a shop in the area and had “no links to al-Qaeda.”

The same witness said that the other man’s body was “torn to pieces.”

Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, the self-proclaimed Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), has exploited the decline in central government control that accompanied Arab Spring-inspired protests that eventually forced president Ali Abdullah Saleh to cede power.

But suicide attacks targeting security forces have intensified since his successor, Abdrabuh Mandur Hadi, took office in February and vowed to continue the US-backed fight against Al-Qaeda.

On the day Hadi took the oath as Yemen’s new president, 26 Republican Guard troops were killed in a suicide attack on a presidential palace in the restive country’s southeast. Al-Qaeda later claimed responsibility for the attack.

Security forces have also been locked in battles with the Partisans of Sharia in Abyan’s provincial capital, Zinjibar, since the extremists took over the city in May 2011.

In a statement issued late Thursday, Yemen’s defense ministry said that “more than 100 terrorists have been killed in Abyan over the past two days” in attacks by security forces on their strongholds.

The figures could not be verified from independent sources.

On Tuesday, a source in the Abyan town of Jaar, an al-Qaeda bastion where the militants’ casualties are usually taken, said the armed forces killed 38 Islamists in two days of air raids and shelling of their hideouts in the region.

“The war on terror and terrorist elements will continue wherever they may be, until Abyan is cleansed of terrorism,” 26sep.net quoted security officials as saying.

In recent years, the U.S. Defense Department has provided hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment and training designed to help Yemen’s special forces counter al-Qaeda.

The equipment has included aircraft, helicopters with night-vision cameras, sniper rifles, secure radios and bullet-proof jackets, according to the Congressional Research Service, a research arm of the U.S. Congress.

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