Last Updated: Tue Apr 10, 2012 18:05 pm (KSA) 15:05 pm (GMT)

At least 124 people killed in 48 hours of fighting between Yemeni army and Qaeda militants

The clashes in Loder followed a series of air strikes that killed 24 suspected al-Qaeda militants in their southern and eastern strongholds in Yemen. (Reuters)
The clashes in Loder followed a series of air strikes that killed 24 suspected al-Qaeda militants in their southern and eastern strongholds in Yemen. (Reuters)

At least 124 people were killed in 48 hours of fighting between Yemeni troops and al-Qaeda militants in the country’s restive south, military and tribal sources said on Tuesday.

“One hundred and twenty-four people were killed in two days” of clashes around the city of Loder in Abyan province which is besieged by al-Qaeda, said a military official.

The toll, which was confirmed by tribal sources, includes 102 al-Qaeda militants -- 28 of them killed Tuesday --, 14 soldiers, and eight of the tribesmen fighting alongside the army. The fighting surged after al-Qaeda militants attacked army barracks.

Based on an earlier toll, 80 people were killed, 58 of them al-Qaeda militants, among those 12 Somalis and several Saudis, according to a tribal source.

A government official in the Abyan province town of Loder said on Tuesday that al-Qaeda militants have surrounded the area in preparation for the complete takeover of the town.


“Al Qaeda has distributed statements throughout the town saying that it is determined to take control of Loder,” said the official who requested anonymity.

The clashes in Loder followed a series of air strikes that killed 24 suspected al-Qaeda militants in their southern and eastern strongholds.

The city of Loder is located some 150 kilometers (95 miles) northeast of Zinjibar, the Abyan provincial capital which the al-Qaeda linked Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) militants overran in May last year.

Al-Qaeda briefly overran Loder in August 2010 before being driven out by the army.

A tribal source had said that the militants wanted to retake it because of its strategic location between Shabwa, Bayda and Lahij provinces where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is also active.

The United States considers the Yemen-based AQAP the most deadly and active branch of the global terror network.

Conflict with Islamists in the south is only one of several challenges facing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who took over in February after a year of mass protests against his predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Yemen’s main airport in Sana’a was paralyzed for a day after officers and tribesmen loyal to Saleh forced it to close in protest at the sacking of the air force commander, a half-brother of Saleh.

A government official said they backed down only after pressure from the United States and Gulf countries, which had crafted the deal that made Hadi president.

Washington, which has pursued a campaign of assassination by drones and missiles against alleged al-Qaeda targets in Yemen, is also pressing Hadi to unify the military, which split between Saleh’s foes and allies last year.

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