(AA) – Al-Qaeda militants on Monday seized a Yemeni city in the southern province of Abyan and attacked an army encampment in it, a security source has said.
“Large groups of Al-Qaeda militants entered the city of Al-Mahfad in Abyan province and took full control of it,” the source, requesting anonymity, told The Anadolu Agency.
“The militants waved flags with Al-Qaeda’s insignia and set up checkpoints at every entry point to the city, after which they launched an attack on the 39th Brigade’s camp in the city,” the source said.
The militants clashed with army units and are currently blockading the camp from all directions, the source said, adding that the militants came down from the mountainous areas near Al-Mahfad city.
Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, for its part, said on Twitter that its militants waged a major assault on the 39th Brigade’s camp in Al-Mahfad, noting that the assault was carried out on several fronts and that four soldiers have been captured since the assault began early Monday.
In recent months, scores of security personnel have been killed in militant attacks in the country’s restive south – attacks officials blame on Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Politically fractious Yemen has recently appeared on the brink of civil war, with the powerful Shiite Houthi movement seeking to expand its influence beyond capital Sanaa, which it took over last September.
Sunni tribes, reportedly enjoying the support of Al-Qaeda, accuse the Yemeni army of abetting the Houthis – allegations the army denies.