ADEN (Reuters) - Militants have killed at least nine soldiers in attacks in south and eastern Yemen over the past three days, local officials said on Monday, just as the government sent more troops to the east to confront a growing al Qaeda threat.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), exploiting political turmoil during a 2011 uprising that forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, has repeatedly attacked state institutions, including army camps and government buildings across the U.S.-allied country, killing hundreds of people.
The stability of Yemen, which shares a long, porous border with the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, and whose coast gives onto major shipping lanes, is an international concern.
A local official told Reuters that a group of militants attacked a security checkpoint on a main road in Hadramout province in eastern Yemen early on Monday, killing six soldiers.
“The militants are believed to be from al Qaeda and they used machineguns to shoot the six soldiers,” the official said.
On Saturday, three soldiers were killed in a similar attack in the southern Shabwa province, local officials told Reuters.
Al Qaeda militants are trying to impose their version of Islamic law on parts of Hadramout, where government control is perceived to be weakest. Residents said last month that leaflets have been distributed in the eastern city of Seiyoun warning women not to go out without being accompanied by a man.
The militants dispersed into more remote areas of south and eastern Yemen in May after a military campaign forced them to flee their main strongholds in Shabwa and Abyan provinces.
They have launched a series of attacks on government facilities in Hadramout over the past few months.
State news agency Saba said on Sunday that authorities have deployed extra troops to Seiyoun with instructions to “maintain security and stability of citizens in the area”.
The United States regards AQAP as one of the most active wings of the militant network founded by Osama bin Laden, and it has stepped up its support for the government and military, including conducting drone strikes.
Reporting by Mohamed Mukhashaf; Writing by Amena Bakr; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Louise Ireland