Four Yemeni soldiers were killed today in what appears to be an al Qaeda attack on a military checkpoint in eastern Hadramout province. A Yemeni security official said that militants “believed to belong to al Qaeda” assaulted a Yemeni special forces checkpoint with machine guns and missiles at the western entrance to the city of al Mukallah, the provincial capital of Hadramout, Erem News reported. The same official claimed that the attack led to the deaths of four soldiers and wounded two others.
The source noted that the soldiers could not ascertain if any militants were killed during the intense clashes at the checkpoint.
Today’s attack in al Mukallah comes two weeks after an attack on another checkpoint in the provincial capital which led to the deaths of 20 Yemeni special forces soldiers. Like today’s attack, the assault “bore all the hallmarks of al Qaeda,” according to security sources.
Hadramout is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, and the province has become an AQAP bastion over the past several years. AQAP has regrouped in Hadramout and other provinces after losing control of major cities in Abyan and Shabwa provinces to government forces starting in late spring 2012. In May 2013, the Yemeni government claimed it foiled a plot by AQAP to establish an Islamic emirate in the Ghayl Bawazir area.
AQAP has launched a series of assassinations and complex attacks against Yemeni security forces in the province. In September 2013, a platoon-sized AQAP assault team stormed a base run by the Interior Ministry’s paramilitary Central Security Organization in the city of Mukallah. Several soldiers were killed and the base was held by AQAP for days before it was retaken by commandos.
The US began conducting drone strikes in Hadramout in 2012, and has now carried out a total of 15 strikes in the province. On March 6, AQAP retaliated for the killing of AQAP commander Ali Juraym in a drone strike in Al Jawf province by brutally killing a so-called “American spy” in Hadramout.