The number of attacks carried out by terror groups against the pro-government southern troops surged in various areas of the war-torn Yemen despite a recent truce brokered by the UN.
In the turbulent southern province of Abyan, militants of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda branch launched a large-scale attack and targeted a checkpoint manned by the newly-recruited Security Belt forces in the coastal district of Ahwar.
“The Al Qaeda militants used heavy weapons including grenades and attacked the southern Security Belt forces from different directions, killing at least 21 soldiers and injuring others,” an official of Abyan’s local government told Xinhua news agency on Tuesday.
The troops stationed in the area responded promptly following the attack and engaged in intense clashes with the terrorists, leaving eight of them killed, he added.
Hours after the attack, units of the local troops carried out a clearance operation targeting terrorists in the area, according to the official.
In a separate incident, a high-ranking military commander of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) was gunned down by a sniper of the Iran-backed Houthi rebel militia in the neighboring southern province of Lahj.
“Hadar Al-Shawahity, commander of the 4th military division, was inspecting his forces stationed in Yafea’s frontline when a Houthi sniper targeted him along with his bodyguards despite the ongoing truce,” said an official of the Aden-based STC.
“The coordinated treacherous attacks targeting our forces across the southern areas will not deter us from continuing out fighting against terror groups including the Houthis and the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated elements.”
The ongoing truce went into force on April 2 and was renewed for two months on June 2, and then extended for another 60 days on August 2.
Although the truce has largely been upheld, a surge in terrorist attacks on the southern security forces in Yemen has recently been witnessed, as the country’s newly-formed Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) backed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition began deploying forces in the country’s oil-rich province of Shabwa and other neighbouring areas.
Yemen’s presidential council is now facing a wide array of tough political and security challenges, ranging from terror groups to the Iran-backed Houthi militia and the recent rebellion staged by the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islah party in various areas of the Arab world’s poorest country.
“The terror groups and the Iran-backed Houthis unified their plans with the Islamist Islah party to destabilize the presidential council and abort all the international efforts aimed at achieving permanent peace in the country,” an official of the Yemeni government told Xinhua.
Last month, the newly-recruited southern forces announced the launch of a major anti-terror operation code-named “ARROWS OF THE EAST” across Abyan to combat terror groups.
The Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) network has been responsible for many high-profile attacks against the security forces in the country’s southern provinces.
The AQAP has exploited years of deadly conflict between the Yemeni government and Houthi militia to expand its presence in the war-ravaged Arab country.