Militants linked to Al Qaeda launched a dawn attack on a Yemeni army post on Monday, leaving at least 23 people dead, according to army officials, said the Associated Press.
The officials said the militants attacked an army post in the town of Lawder in the Abyan province, an area which has seen a lot of Al Qaeda activity. According to the AP, the casualties included 18 militants and five soldiers, including a colonel.
Reuters reported that the casualties amounted to 33, increasing the number of soldiers killed to nine.
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The militant group, called Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the most active branch of the terrorist organization. AQAP seized control of a large amount of territory in Abyan during the political turmoil that engulfed Yemen, according to Reuters, when President Ali Abdullah Saleh was pressured to step down after revolts rocked the country.
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According to the AFP, which cited military sources, the total number of casualties was 44. An official said, "Forty-four people, including 14 soldiers who included an officer, were killed." According to the official's numbers, 24 militants and six tribesman, who fought alongside the military, were also killed.
"The army is backing us with weapons," said a tribal chief, according to the AFP. "We will fight Al Qaeda and will not let them into our city."
The local tribesman have been staunchly against Al Qaeda, and a military source said, "The tribes are fighting alongside the army and we will repel Al Qaeda. Their plans will fail so long as the local population stands by our side," according to the AFP.
The challenge President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi now faces is to unite the army against the Islamists in the south, while they launch increasingly bold attacks on the military, said Reuters. The Yemen army is divided between those loyal to the uprising that removed Saleh from power, and those loyal to Saleh, leaving room for bolder attacks by Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups.
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