The toll from last Sunday’s raid by an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula assault force against a Yemeni Army base in Al Koud continues to rise as the bodies of more soldiers are recovered. AQAP is now thought to have killed 185 Yemeni troops, wounded more than 150, and captured another 55. According to Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee, “about 60 soldiers were detained and taken to the Taliban-style Al Qaeda-declared Islamic Emirate of Jaar in the southern province of Abyan on Sunday morning,” where they were forced to train AQAP fighters on some of the heavy equipment captured during the raid.
The Guardian reports that AQAP mutilated some of the bodies of the slain Yemeni soldiers and dumped them in the desert:
Medical officials in the area confirmed the latest death toll and said some of the bodies of soldiers recovered were missing their heads and bore multiple stab wounds. They said the military hospital morgue was packed with bodies, and some were taken to vegetable freezers in a military compound for lack of space.
A senior military official said the attack left his soldiers “fearful of al-Qaida because of the barbarism and brutality of their attack”.
“Al-Qaida managed to deal a blow to the army’s morale. Imagine how soldiers feel when they see the bodies of their comrades dumped in the desert,” he said.
Military officials had earlier said militants overran the base and captured armoured vehicles and artillery pieces, which they turned on the army.
The official said the soldiers were taken unawares. “It was a massacre and it came by surprise as the soldiers were asleep,” he said. Militants sneaked behind army lines and attacked from the rear where there was “zero surveillance”.
Some Yemeni journalists are claiming that the outgoing commander of the decimated armored battalion had provided vital information that allowed AQAP to overrun the camp.
Whether or not AQAP used inside information to overrun the camp, it scored a major victory over the Yemeni Army. The AQAP assault force rendered nearly 400 Yemeni soldiers killed, captured, or wounded, essentially neutralizing an entire armored brigade in an area where the Yemeni military has struggled to contain the terror group.
At LWJ and Threat Matrix, we’ve noted several times that AQAP forces on the ‘Zinjibar front’ have prevented a division of Yemeni troops – which consists of one armored, one mechanized, and one infantry brigade – from retaking the provincial capital for nearly a year (AQAP first gained control of Zinjibar in May 2011).
Many analysts scoffed when AQAP announced (twice) in 2010 that it was forming a 12,000-man army in Abyan and Aden provinces to establish its caliphate. Perhaps the number is exaggerated a bit. But given AQAP’s military prowess on the Zinjibar front, and its ability to continually replenish its ranks, perhaps AQAP didn’t exaggerate by all that much.
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